Field umpire Troy Pannell officiates in his 150th AFL game this Friday night in the preliminary final between Sydney and North Melbourne. Troy is uncovering some rare earth this season as his finals campaigns in the previous two seasons had not gone this deep.
Troy has umpired in as many state league competitions as Stefan Grun but unlike Stefan, Troy has umpired a state league grand final in each of those leagues. Sydney Football League in 2004, Queensland Football League in 2001 and in the VFL in 2008. (For the record Stefan umpired 3 VFL grand finals and a Tasmanian Football League grand final)
Troy even spent a year working in New Zealand and officiated in one of the first international rules carnivals in 2003 representing New Zealand.
So what made Troy so nomadic? “As a young bloke I suppose I just chased work and the one common denominator was my footy,” reflected Troy when we caught up with him today to congratulate him on his milestone. Troy calls home the Western Region Football League where he still goes back to even on the eve of this years finals campaign to mix with his old mates and say hello. It’s almost a case of you can take the boy out of the west but you can’t take the west out of the boy.
“I credit Terry O’Donnell and Bill Sandford for teaching and mentoring me in the early days. Matt James forged the breakout for all of the young guys coming from that league onto the VFL panel with a very good grounding. He made the selectors sit up and pick young guys for grand finals. I trialled for the development panel in 1994 but didn’t make it. I went back and umpired the 1994-96 WRFL grand finals and made the development panel in 1997. Troy made the VFL senior panel in 1999 but couldn’t settle into the tougher environment.”
He bobbed up next in Queensland in 2000 and 2001 and went back to the VFL in 2002 to trial before being relocated to New Zealand. Troy made the AFL panel as a Sydney based umpire in 2005. But that didn’t last long. Troy was delisted at the end of 2007 and told to go back to the VFL to get his consistency right. “On reflection, my continual relocations didn’t help my umpiring. Philosophies were different from state to state and I lacked that critical consistency in my coaching. Having a year out of footy and then 12 months later land a AFL contract didn’t help me settle into a routine that was essential to be successful in the AFL.”
“Work life balance is critical to becoming a successful decision-maker in senior football, especially the AFL. You need a strong network of support from family and friends, I never had that during my first stint on the list.” Troy was back on the AFL panel in 2009 and despite some early health scares hasn’t looked back. When the selectors showed faith in him he generally repaid them in spades.
“The last three years have been my most consistent and best. I have found that there is no point over analysing performances and worrying about outcomes. I complete my feedback take out the coaching learnings each week and move on.”
Troy isn’t the most liked field umpire on the list, in fact most of the group despise him. He is the “fines master” and is responsible for collecting all of the “dirt” on the other guys and fining them an appropriate amount of money for their indiscretions. He misses nothing and amasses significant funds for the guys to enjoy post season.
“London in 2012 was a great experience and to get away with a bunch of mates was nothing short of sensational.” Troy notes that the defining moment of his career came in the 2013 qualifying final at Skilled Stadium between Geelong and Fremantle. “That game went to a whole new level. I walked off the ground after the final siren knowing that I could now handle whatever a game threw at me. Although it was my only final of the year, I just knew……………..”