Boundary umpire Gerard Large surprised us all when he was called in to replace an ill Chris Esler on Sunday to officiate in his 150th AFL game. Gerard, who describes himself as a solid umpire is extremely resilient having only missed 2 games in 12 years due to illness.
An ex-player, Gerard played in the Essendon Football League until he was 19 and then spent a year playing in the ammo’s before turning his hand to umpiring. “My dream was to play AFL footy and when I realised that wasn’t going to happen, I took up umpiring with an aim to run onto the MCG,” reflected Gerard when we caught up with him today. “I was a cross country runner with an ability to read the play, which is still my best attribute, as a boundary umpire.”
Gerard umpired three VFL grand finals in 2005,06,07 before getting an opportunity to umpire AFL footy. Since his inclusion onto the list he has umpired 2 finals. “I’m realistic, I work extremely hard in every game and I am on the cusp. Sometimes you get lucky other times you don’t. I am persistent.” Gerard attacks every game as if it is his last. He works on his weaknesses and his strengths and looks no further ahead than his next game.
“I love going to training, the Vic boys are the best. We have a deep respect for each other and we work as a team to get the best out of each other. We have known each other for a long time now. Even the young guys who come into the group get up to speed very quickly.”
One of Gerard’s other strengths was his ability to pay free kicks when the AFL was trialling boundary umpires paying free kicks in the pre-season competition. “I always watched the play closely so I could anticipate play, if the free kick stood out I just paid it. Over all those years I never had an unwarranted free, they were all reviewed as correct, laughed Gerard.
Gerard has a special place in his heart for his wife, Angela who is so supportive of Gerard’s footy career. “She raises our three kids, Charlotte, Oliver and Zach. I’m determined to continue to umpire well enough for my youngest son, Zach to come to the footy one day, so the whole family can be there to enjoy their dad umpiring.”
Gerard rates his father, Kevin as his greatest supporter. “I was on the VFL panel and got my first game on the MCG, an under 18 match. Unbeknown to me dad cut his holiday short in Queensland and arrived at the ground, he said to me later it’s not every day your son umpires on the MCG.”
Always a team man and someone who loves his footy. Well done on a great milestone Gerard, your mates do think you are “larger than life.”