Last week’s match between the Gold Coast and Richmond not only formed part of the opening of the 2024 AFL season, but also the AFL umpiring career of Luke Graves.

The boundary umpire, who has relocated from WA to Queensland to pursue his career, has impressed over the last few years both in the AFLW and WAFL competitions.

The son of a Perth Football League field umpire, Luke, like many umpires, followed in familial footsteps to begin riding the boundary line at the age of just 11.

Despite his talent, umpiring WAFL colts and reserves games, he said that it was only in 2018 that he decided to start taking umpiring seriously and considering it as a career.

Since this turning point he hasn’t looked back; his résumé boasts the extraordinary achievement of having umpired the last five WAFL Grand Finals, from 2019 through to 2023.

In 2021 Luke joined the AFLW, where he would go on to umpire 29 games, the pinnacle of which being his selection for the (2022) Season 6 Grand Final match between Adelaide and Melbourne.

“I really enjoyed my time in the women’s comp. I think the whole national structure was really good, getting to compare yourself against equivalent guys in other states. The advice and coaching we were getting from some of the big dog coaches was really good as well.”

An elite middle-distance runner, Luke placed third in the 2023 Australian Championships 3-kilometre steeple chase with a time of 8:48:20. The 3k steeple being his specialty, he is also currently WA state champ in the 5k.

“It’s because of my running that I’m a good umpire I suppose.”

“I started running when I was ten, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken it more and more seriously. I had a really promising junior career and now I’m still in that stage where I’m trying to make it as an elite open age athlete.

Drawing on his own experience, Luke thinks more middle-distance runners should consider umpiring.

“There’s not a lot of runners that do umpire as well, and I’d like to be a role model to get more middle-distance runners involved in umpiring.”

Having completed his doctorate in physiotherapy, 2024 looks to be a busy year for Luke, as he enters full-time work, a new state, and AFL umpiring. Despite what may appear to be a daunting schedule, he’s welcoming of these upcoming challenges.

“I thrive off the chaos I reckon, I don’t like to sit on my arse too much, I enjoy being busy.”

Congratulations again to Luke on his fantastic debut last Saturday night. The AFLUA wishes him good luck for the rest of the 2024 season.

 

Article by Jackson Kerr

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