As a young 18 year old, Rob Haala remembers having what he calls ‘a foolish dream’ of umpiring 300 AFL games which he associated back to growing up and watching Tim Watson playing over 300 games with Essendon. Well as Rob hangs up his boots, he retires in equal tenth-place on the all-time boundary umpire list on 307 AFL games, equal fourth-place on the all-time finals boundary umpire list with 27 finals, 4 grand finals and two All-Australian awards as some of his many achievements over a career spanning 14 years.
Rob also served on the AFLUA executive committee as executive member for the boundary squad for four years from 2006 to 2009. During his time on the committee, Rob was a keen and passionate advocate for boundary umpires in supporting the overall advancement of conditions and services for AFL umpires.
Rob feels blessed to have had so many proud moments in his career, but he believes it is now time to move on to the next chapter in his life. He wants to be there to support Caitlin’s career and to share more family time with his young children Sebastian and Regina. He believes two standout proud moments of his career was to share the 2016 and 2017 grand finals with his family and two close friends Ian Burrows and Mitch Le Fevre.
When looking back, he believes that some of the things he will miss umpiring at the elite level include seeing close friends several times each week, being able to push and test himself once a week and sharing achievements with colleagues you work hard with for many years. In fact, Rob and close friend Jonathan Creasey shared a laugh when they realised their careers had so much in common – 307 AFL games, 4 grand finals, 2 All-Australians.
Umpiring has been a significant part of Rob’s life having started with the Southern Football League before being appointed to the VFL prior to his promotion to the AFL in 2004. He is looking forward to being a more present and engaged Dad and to support the growth and development of his children. On his list is also a possible marathon sometime in the future, perhaps in Boston or Berlin.
Rob describes his boundary umpire colleagues as tough, supportive and balanced. He says he will miss the general banter, particularly with close friends, on game day which he believes kept him grounded and relaxed. He also enjoyed running the ball back after a goal and again using this as an opportunity for some more banter. Whilst there have been many funny moments, Rob recalls giving the nearby crowd a good laugh by drowning himself with red Powerade mid-quarter thinking it was water.
Whilst Rob enjoyed umpiring with all his boundary colleagues, he listed a few who brought back special memories:
- Adam Coote – his hardness and willingness to support. At his best, you won’t see a more powerful boundary umpire
- Ian Burrows – the most complete umpire
- Scott Hutton – always teaching and a pure boundary umpire
- Gordon Muir – toughness. Provided a model for me to follow
- Mitch Le Fevre and John Morris – super talented, great humour and always pushed you to become your best.
During his 14 years on the AFL list, Rob learnt to know his limits and to learn what his body could and couldn’t handle. This included learning how to have balance and commit himself for 120 minutes each week and then being able to shut off. He believes the key attributes you need to bring are determination, concentration and focus.
There are many people Rob would like to thank, realising it is quite a challenge, given there are so many people who have shared time with him and had an influence on his career one way or another. These include Caitlin (and more recently Sebastian and Regina), his parents and sisters, Eric Armstrong, Peter Kelly, Chris Snell, Garry Miritis, Glenn Gibson, Aaron Little, Andrew Duncan, James McEniry, Tony Moran, Gordon Muir, Scott Hutton, Shane Jansen, Adam Coote, John Morris, Alan Cook, Ashley Sandison, Ian Burrows, Jon Creasey, Simon Leigh, Mark Fraser, Mike Pritchard, Adam Castricum, Andy Stephens, Mitch Le Fevre, Bill Deller OAM, David Howlett, Chelsea Roffey and Brett Rosebury.
Rob wants to look back on his career and be remembered as someone who was a passionate and values based person who was committed to getting the best out of himself whilst also creating an environment, standard and conditions which were better for future umpires than when he first started.
Congratulations Rob on a fantastic career and finishing on such a high. We hope life after football is as rewarding as your umpiring career and we wish you well in your future endeavours.
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly