Ask Gerard what his best trait is and he fires back his answer with no fuss, “My consistency. I have umpired 22 games every year without failure. I was never injured and I am always putting my hand up for selection.”
That fact just cannot be disputed. Gerard’s 200 games have come in 8 years and 151 days, the 5th fastest of all-time. Gerard was only beaten into 4th fastest by one of his close mates, Mitch Lefevre who umpired his 200th game last week as well, one day faster!
Persistence is clearly Gerard’s middle name. It wasn’t only evident in his AFL career, it started early. Gerard umpired three VFL grand finals before he was offered an AFL contract. “In 2005 and ’06 I missed by one each time. In ’07 my persistence paid off and I got the nod. I came through the ranks pretty quickly. I played football until I was 19 and required a shoulder reconstruction, so I could read the play and had an athletics background. The two components combined well. I achieved the 2005 VFL grand final in only my 5th year of umpiring.”
Gerard who is always very honest, says, “I did it my way and always worked hard to get the best out of myself. I did take notice of my colleagues and took parts of their games that I thought would compliment mine. Chris Gordon developed his strength to make his performances better. I went away to develop my strength to improve my throws. Adam Coote attacked the post better than most. I was never as fast but I could run all day, so I tried to incorporate that into my games as well.”
Gerard laughs, “one of the knocks on me was that when I didn’t hold my form and run fast I looked tired. In pre-season I would run until I was exhausted and then I would do some run throughs to learn to hold my form when I was done, it actually worked on occasions. I did fool them at times.”
Gerard’s standout game was his first final at ANZ Stadium in 2010 when Sydney played Carlton. It was a great game and I did what my coach wanted, I left nothing on the track. I even ran the last goal back to the middle cramping in both legs. I had given my all. That’s what makes my second final in 2013, Geelong v Fremantle memorable because I ran the game out and picked up a good decision on the way through.”
Gerard didn’t get through his whole career unscathed. “I got hammered in a Western Bulldogs game and was taken out by Jack Redpath in the 2nd quarter. I ran out the game but had a delayed onset of concussion and missed the next week. I was pretty hammered.”
Gerard has decided to hand in his whistle after this weekend. “You know since I made my decision 6 or 7 weeks ago I have run really well and it’s flattering when your mates try to talk you out of it, but the time is right. One of the motivating factors in preseason that drives me is to be back with the guys. They are all great company and I love them all. They are all driven and they keep me young. I am going to have to find something to replace that now.”
Gerard says that it is current assistant coach, Scott Hutton has been the biggest influence in his career. “Not only did I umpire with Scott but he has always supported me, offered me strategies to improve my game but always given it to me straight and that’s what I liked most about him. I have always valued his friendship.”
“One of the things I will take out of the game is the magnificent support of my wife Angela and my kids, Charlotte, 12, Oliver, 9 and Zac 5. They have all come to the footy to watch me this year and they will remember me umpiring. My father never missed a game I umpired in Melbourne, both at AFL and VFL level. His support was amazing. I umpired in Boomer Harvey’s record breaking game and for the kids to be there was something they will always remember.”
Gerard leaves a great legacy with no fan fare, he turned up each week and simply got the job done. Congratulations Gerard on 200 games and a great career.
Article written by: AFLUA CEO, Peter Howe