Vale Jesse Baird

 

The outpouring of grief and volume of condolences following the death of Jessie Baird on 19 February 2024 was an indication of how highly he was esteemed in the communities of which he was a part. In football his passing signalled the end of a promising goal umpiring career cut tragically short and the loss of a person universally acknowledged as having a positive impact on all the lives he touched.

Jesse Alan Baird was born in Melbourne on 4 September 1997 and played football for Diamond Creek Junior Football Club for nine years and two years senior football with the Diamond Creek Football Club in the Northern Football and Netball League (NFNL).

He began umpiring in 2011 with the NFNL and spent seven seasons with them. In 2015 he was part of the then VFL Umpires Rookie Squad which trained regularly with the VFL development goal umpires and Jesse was appointed to a TAC Cup match that year, Northern Knights versus Western Jets at Preston. That same year he umpired the NFNL senior grand final.

A television career took Jesse to Queensland in 2017. When he arrived in Brisbane, Jesse had every intention of playing football again, but not wanting to get injured for work, he made the more prudent decision to fully focus on goal umpiring.  He continued his umpiring with the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) and made his debut in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL). His talent was quickly recognised with appointment to the 2018 and 2019 NEAFL Grand Finals. He was awarded NEAFL Goal Umpire of the Year in the Queensland and Northern Territory zone for 2019.

On the back of this success he was promoted to the AFL list in 2020. In round one he was awarded Heritage No. 350 when he umpired Gold Coast versus Port Adelaide at Carrara. The following week the COVID epidemic interrupted football and meant it was exactly three months before he took the field for his second match.

There have been few more successful debut seasons than the one Jesse compiled in 2020. After 15 home and way matches, he became the eighth goal umpire to officiate in a final in their first year. After a good performance in the elimination final he went one better than any of the other seven and umpired the 2020 AFL First Semi-final. This remains the only time a first-year goal umpire has been appointed to two finals series matches. In both 2020 and 2021 Jesse was awarded the Brian Pratt Medallion for the AFL’s most promising goal umpire

Jesse continued umpiring in Brisbane until work took him to Sydney for the 2023 season. The Sydney Umpires noted, “He had a massive impact on our community. Whether it be his infectious positivity at training or his readiness to give back by attending junior training sessions.” It is a sentiment repeated wherever Jesse found himself.

AFL Umpire and close friend Brett Rosebury
 
“Jesse was more than a colleague; he was a loved friend who I cherished. I loved umpiring with him and being around him. As a young goal umpire, he always provided great positivity to the team in the change rooms, and he was very talented on and off the field.”

AFL Goal Umpire and close friend Angus McKenzie-Wills

“Jesse had an amazing ability to connect with people on a personal level. His effervescent personality was infectious. He made people happy just by being around them. As an umpire, he was confident and cool under pressure. I’ll miss his friendship greatly.”

AFL Goal Umpire and close friend Matthew Bridges

“Jesse was someone that transcended whatever was happening in your life. A friend from the moment you met him, he left you happier every time you spoke to him. It’s no surprise he was an instantly popular figure in Queensland umpiring. Jesse was an inspiration to his many friends and family. I will speak fondly of him for the rest of my life.”

AFL Goal Umpire Steve Piperno

“Jesse leaves behind a profound void that words struggle to capture. Anyone who knew Jesse was impacted by his incredible energy and spirit for life. We were blessed to have him as part of our umpiring family.”

AFL National Goal Umpire Coach David Dixon

“Jesse had this unique gift to put a smile on everybody’s face. His thoughtful and caring nature to make you feel like the most important person in every interaction.”

 

At AFL level Jesse compiled a record of 62 AFL matches including 2 finals and matches at venues in Queensland, Victoria, ACT, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

The tragic circumstances of Jesse’s death, murdered in his Paddington home alongside partner Luke Davies, are all the more heart-breaking considering how talented, kind, loving and universally admired a person Jesse was. He could even be totally wild.

Vale Jesse Baird. AFL goal umpire #350 and a man who touched so many people in too short a time on earth, always leaving them better for having known him.

Written by:  AFLUA Historian David Flegg AM.

Acknowledgement to AFL media release 29 February 2024

A televised tribute to Jesse Baird and Luke Davies will be held before the season opening game between Melbourne and Sydney.

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