Jesse Baird was introduced to the umpiring fraternity back in December when he was appointed to the AFL goal umpire list in Queensland. All was going well until Covid-19 restrictions came into play robbing him of the normal pre-season approach for a first timer.
This led to Jesse having the biggest pre-season he’s ever had. He did plenty of running and didn’t miss a training session as he wanted to be sure that he was in the best physical shape possible to kick-start his season. The only downside was that it seemed like the season took forever to roll around.
Jesse was rewarded for his effort when he was appointed to umpire in Round One where he umpired alongside Alistair Meldrum who was himself umpiring his 50th AFL game. Jesse became the 350th goal umpire in VFL/AFL history.
Despite there being no crowds, and the game itself being one sided, Jesse enjoyed his first game of AFL football. He is normally relaxed before a game but admitted he was a little bit nervous in the week leading up the match because he hadn’t trained due to restrictions on training together. But as soon as he got out on the ground, he knew he had a job to do. His first decision was a rushed ball over the line within the first minute of play, which he was pretty happy to get out of the way early. The rest of the game was a bit of a blur but a lot of fun. He left the ground looking forward to round 2 at the Gabba. Little did he know he would have such a long time to wait.
Having zero spectators at the game didn’t feel strange at all, having umpired 3 years in the NEAFL competition, he is quite used to hearing a pin drop. In fact, the best part of having no crowd at his first game was being able to clearly communicate with other umpires.
Jesse’s first goal was kicked by Ben King at around the 11-minute mark of the first quarter. It was close to the post and Jesse nearly walked back to the centre of the goal line to give his signal when he remembered the new goal umpire rule of signalling anywhere on the goal line.
Jesse is currently employed as a Network 10 presenter on the National Children’s show ‘Totally Wild’ and has being working at home at stages throughout the pandemic. Getting out for a run or bike ride has been made a lot easier so he has focused on his fitness since round one, ready to bounce back when the opportunity arises again.
His funniest moment was when he was umpiring his first NEAFL game at Metricon Stadium. His first decision of the game was a quick sprayed kick out near the behind post that meant he had to run hard to get out there. The ground was somewhat slipper so that when Jesse went to pull up, he was so close to slipping on his rear end, the only thing that saved him was the impressive little dance he did to regain his balance. He still remembers Nick Wade (who was an AFL Boundary umpire at the time) giving him plenty of feedback the next time he got to the post. Of course, the vision circulated around training the following week.
Jesse loves goal umpiring because the margin of error is small, but the consequences are big. Timing and positioning are everything so because of this you can never be perfect, which gives Jesse something to work on, something to improve and that is what keeps him coming back. Plus, it gives him the best ‘seat’ in the house.
We look forward to seeing Jesse strut his stuff when the footy season resumes in June. All the best Jesse for the year ahead.