Matt Laycock has gone about his business as a goal umpire in Western Australia for the past five seasons with little or no fanfare and has thirty-six games of AFL to his credit. “I had second year blues and struggled with some errors that made it tough going,” reflected Matt when we caught up for coffee earlier this week.
It’s a tough gig in WA as a goal umpire, there are four listed umpires there which means if games are shared around the most each can do are eleven in a season. When two guys are going very well, like last year when Brett Rogers umpired his first final and Dale Edwick sat as an emergency in week one of the finals, then there are less games to go around.
So it was a great surprise when I turned on the tv last Saturday to see Matt in the goal square at Etihad Stadium when North Melbourne played Richmond. His smile was unmistakable.
“It was an amazing day. I was taken right out of my comfort zone. Even though it was a NAB challenge game I was umpiring on a new ground, with umpires I barely knew under the gaze of our national coach. Couple that with the travel that I am not used to, I certainly learned a lot about myself and the preparation required at this level.”
Matt is about as laid back and understated as you can get, but he oozes passion for footy, umpiring and sport in general. “I was prepared to head to Melbourne for the final of the world cup until the cheapest flights I could get out of Perth were just outrageous and accommodation in Melbourne was double that normally expected. Anyway I’ll get a good view on the telly, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity I’ve missed.”
Matt’s inclusion onto the AFL list was also an interesting one from a personal perspective. His boss, a former AFL goal umpire and multiple WAFL grand final goal umpire Mike Spear lost his contract as an AFL goal umpire only to be replaced by Matt. “Mike is a true professional and I never coped any flack but we were all very conscious of the unusual circumstances of the switch,” laughed Matt.
Matt’s aim this season is pretty simple, “Fourteen games will give me 50. Now that’s a nice number to finish the season on.”