Field umpire Jack Edwards recently called stumps on his officiating days after plying the trade for 19 years. His career span included 159 VFL matches between 2010 and 2022, and 11 AFL matches across 2015-2016.
An umpiring journey that had begun in the NFNL at just 13, Jack reflected on his tenure with the whistle in his hand as being “lucky and privileged” to have served the game of football and walk away with unique memories.
“Not only to be able to umpire at that level, but to do it for quite a while, is something that I never took for granted,” Jack said. “The experiences that I have had along the way have been incredible, and I’ll be very thankful for all the relationships I have made from umpiring. It’s given me so much, so I am really thankful for [that].”
His rapid rise through the VFL ranks saw Jack take charge of the TAC Cup Grand Final in 2012 and the VFL Development League Grand Final a year after. In 2014, he umpired in the VFL senior Grand Final and was recognised as the AFL Victoria Field Umpire of the Year.
Promotion onto the AFL List ahead of the 2015 season was next on the cards for Jack. He went on to become the 433rd field umpire to debut in a VFL/AFL game, following his maiden outing at the MCG (Melbourne v Hawthorn) in 2015. He was awarded AFLUA Heritage Number 433.
On his introduction to the top-flight at one of the grandest stages of them all, Jack recalled, “To be able to debut at the MCG was incredibly special. It’s still a day that I remember very vividly.
“Once we are in the middle with the crowd, I could get a sense of how loud it could be. It’s hard to explain – the energy you get when you are in middle of the MCG with the crowd there.
“I had Brett Rosebury and Shaun Ryan umpire with me at the time. To umpire with them was an incredible experience and I am very lucky to learn a lot from those two in my career.
“I remember walking off the field and the first thing Shaun Ryan said was, ‘Well mate, you are forever an AFL umpire!’, and that sticks in my mind. It takes you back a bit, and you are like, ‘Wow, that’s true!’. You’ve forever got that and no one can take that away from you. That was really special.”
Spending almost two decades at the elite level of AFL and VFL umpiring, Jack noted how the challenge kept motivating him. “It’s a unique sport that it is really tough sometimes. But to have the support of your colleagues and coaches – that drove me to want to improve and get the best out of myself.
“I wanted to see the highest level that I could get to, and to make the AFL was something that I’ll cherish forever. The challenge to be the best that I possibly could, and to see where that would take me…”
For Jack, umpiring in football has a strong family connection. Besides his own exploits as a field umpire, his father Craig is a respected boundary umpire and coach, and brother Matthew has been making his mark as a VFL and AFLW goal umpire. Matthew has 126 VFL matches, 23 AFLW matches and the 2022 S6 AFLW Grand Final to his credit. Jack’s 150th as well as his last VFL match were umpired alongside Matthew on the respective gameday panels.
Hailing the impact that his parents, brother, and his wife Melany, have had in supporting him through the years, Jack noted, “To have my family’s support – not just in umpiring – it’s really important. Without my family, I wouldn’t have had the career that I have had.”
Now that the rigours of an umpire’s life are set to take a backseat for Jack, he is looking ahead to spending more time with his family, watch football, play more golf and travel. A prospect of coaching or mentoring umpires is something that will be on his radar for the future, should an opportunity arise, Jack noted.
Congratulations, Jack, on your career, and thank you for your services to umpiring. We wish you the very best going forward.