Big crowd, traditional rivals, last quarter come back, MCG….what more could you ask in setting the scene for your 100thAFL game?

Michael Palm notched up his century at the Carlton v Collingwood game at the MCG on 11thMay with Collingwood storming home at his end in the last quarter, in front of a frenzied Collingwood crowd behind the goals.

Michael took up goal umpiring by accident as a young kid when he was watching a local game and a goal umpire asked him if he’d like to take up goal umpiring.  Michael was part of the SANFL academy and became an accredited goal umpire at 13 years of age.  At age 16 he was umpiring on the senior SANFL panel.

Michael’s career has spanned two states and he is one of a few who have umpired a state league grand final in two different state leagues.  In 2005, he umpired the SANFL grand final and won the Golden Flags Award as the best goal umpire in South Australia.

All that changed in 2006, when Michael moved to Ballarat in country Victoria chasing a career.  He took up umpiring in Ballarat and officiated in the senior grand final that year. He then joined the VFL but struggled with his consistency and started to question his commitment and future.  In a sliding doors moment, Steve Stirling was appointed as VFL coach and joined forces with two other AFL goal umpiring legends Anthony Black and Leigh Keen, so Michael decided to stay and give it another go.

Michael’s career blossomed, and he was appointed to the 2012 VFL grand final before being offered an AFL contract in 2013.   His most cherished games on the AFL list has been umpiring on ANZAC Day as well as International Rules in Adelaide in 2017.

Michael says balancing a young family, a busy job and umpiring is sometimes tough, but he says having an understanding workplace and a very supportive family is critical. He also says as the kids have grown older, they have taken a more active interest in his umpiring pursuits and they’re excited by what he does, which means a lot to Michael.

To clear his head, Michael takes time away from football with other interests.  He doesn’t watch much AFL outside his own games and enjoys NFL, NBA and baseball which makes him feel more passionate about the games he gets to umpire.

The game has evolved even in the 7 years Michael has been on the list.  “The score review system was still in its infancy stages when l joined the list and we were all still working out how it fitted into AFL games.”  He acknowledges that everyone now has an understanding for the score review system and when it’s best to be used.

Michael reflects on some of the funny comments that have come his way over the fence. He recalls being abused by a cheer squad member after he paid a close decision.  Another voice yelled from the cheer squad, “Leave the goalie alone, it’s not his fault our team’s sh*t!”

Michael’s only pre-game ritual is that he always puts his right boot on first before a match!

Well done Michael on a fantastic milestone.  We wish you all the best for the remainder of the season!

Article written by: Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly

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