Ian Burrows is set to join one of the most exclusive clubs in umpiring. Since 1897, just twelve people across all three umpiring disciplines have achieved the 400 game milestone. Of that twelve, the 602 past and present boundary umpires have produced just three members of 400 club, Mark Thomson, Darren Wilson and Adam Coote. Now, after eighteen years of umpiring, Ian Burrows joins them.

Burrows’ journey in umpiring began typically: “like lots of others, I played junior footy then was looking for a way to keep fit, stay involved and earn a bit of pocket money.”

Burrows’ career began with the Yarra Valley Umpire’s Association in 2001. Burrow’s talent earned him the Yarra Valley Grand Final that year, followed by two TAC Cup Grand Finals in 2002 and

Borrows’ in action during the 2007 Round 7 match between the Kangaroos and Bombers at the Telstra Dome.

2003. 2004 saw his promotion the VFL reserves, and subsequent appointment to the Grand Final that year. In 2005 Burrow’s umpired in the VFL and once again earned a spot in the Grand Final.

The first NAB Cup game gave Ian a taste of what was to come at the top of his profession.

“I especially remember my first NAB Cup game. I was so excited because it was my first time in a big stadium with a big crowd. I remember standing on the corner of the square as the opening siren went being in a bit of disbelief that I was actually there.”

On 3 April 2006 Burrows’ meteoric rise to AFL level was complete when he umpired the round 1 clash between Collingwood and Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.

“You never forget the phone calls for significant moments like when you’re told you’ve made the AFL list.”

Burrows’ resume must surely be one of the most impressive held by a boundary umpire ever. In 2007 he was awarded the Bill Sutton medallion for the most promising first or second year umpire. This promise was soon realised as he would umpire his first Grand Final in 2008, then follow it with eight more; 2010 (and 2010 replay), 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2023. Burrows’ was awarded the Murray Williams shield – the AFLUA’s most prestigious award for boundary umpires – in 2014 and 2016.

Of his grand finals, he ranks the 2010 draw between Collingwood and St. Kilda as his most memorable.

“It wasn’t until the last minute or so I started to realise there was a real chance that it might be a draw. When the siren went it was a bizarre feeling.”

“Aside from grand finals, the 2013 elimination final between Richmond and Carlton was pretty amazing. It was the Tigers first final in ages so when they ran out in front of a packed MCG the roar was unbelievable. The finish to the game was equally unbelievable.”

Soon to be forty years old, his preparation for a game is nothing special, but rather a well-oiled and reliable routine.

15 years later during the 2022 round 22 match between the Tigers and the Hawks at the MCG Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

“I am pretty strict on following the same routine and being well prepared. I like to make sure the legs are as fresh as possible, have a big serve of pasta, early to bed, walk and coffee in the morning.”

He attributes his longevity in umpiring’s most running-intensive discipline to the same sort of workmanlike attitude that he approaches the game with; “the key thing is putting the work in.”

Fellow Grand Final boundary umpire Micheal Marantelli tends to agree.

“I put his longevity down to consistency. Buzz is a great exponent of getting in the right amount of time and intensity into his training week after week. He umpires in the same manner. There is nothing particularly fancy about it but he is always in the right spot at the right time and performs at a high level week after week, year after year.”

Now an old head amongst the boundary umpiring fraternity, Burrow’s consistency, excellence and experience has well and truly earned him the respect of his colleagues.

“Buzz is a well respected member of the boundary group and is generally considered to be the ‘voice of reason’ when topics are debated. A great friend to many who rarely misses a social occasion.”

The AFLUA would like to congratulate Ian for his outstanding achievement. Best of luck for Saturday and the rest of the season.

Article by Jackson Kerr

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