It isn’t often that an umpire who has just officiated an AFL grand final and is named All-Australian decides to retire but Luke Walker, after 14 seasons decided the time was right after giving so much energy and effort at being the best umpire he could be.
Luke finished his career with 261 matches, the most finals of any goal umpire in the VFL/AFL’s history (37), and 7 AFL grand finals in equal second spot with Anthony Black.
Luke’s proudest moment of his career was the satisfaction of being able to say, ‘I umpired an AFL game’. For Luke that achievement took six and a half years with a lot of luck, listening, hard work and dedication to just be able to get there.
During his celebrated career, Luke says he learnt a lot about resilience and if something doesn’t go to plan, then it isn’t the end of the world and it’s time to implement or look at plan B. He has also learnt that when it comes to decision making, take the time available and consider all options and you’ve always got more time than you think to make a decision.
Umpiring has been a big part of Luke’s life to date and he is looking forward to spending more time with his family. He feels that once you have umpiring in your blood, it will be hard to get rid of, so he will keep his finger on the pulse in respect of umpiring going forward in some shape or form.
Luke will miss umpiring at the elite level. He admits that as much as the weekly routine of umpiring can drive you insane, he thinks he will miss that as well. This routine which includes training during the week, umpiring the game of a weekend, reflecting on your performance and then going through it all again week after week. He admits that one feeling that you can’t replace though is walking off the field after a game knowing you gave it your best, you had a decent game and the sense of relief that brings. That feeling doesn’t last long before you are looking towards the next week, but he will certainly also miss that.
When Luke was younger, he enjoyed umpiring with more experienced umpires to learn from them and be shown what skills or qualities are required to be a successful goal umpire. Once he became more experienced (or old as he puts it), then the wheel turned and he enjoyed umpiring with lesser experienced umpires to hopefully pass on some of the knowledge that he’d learnt over the years.
Luke describes his goal umpire colleagues as loyal, devoted and humble and says he will miss the day to day interaction with such a great group of professional people. He says some of his funniest moments in football was being sent off with the blood rule in Alice Springs, jokes being told on the training track and trips away interstate. He also recalls many funny moments or quotes when you stand in front of an AFL cheers squad for two hours each week.
Luke served on the AFLUA executive committee and an executive member for goal umpires for three years (2013, 2014 and 2015). Luke represented his squad with passion in a quiet and efficient manner.
There are many people Luke wishes to thank and these include the numerous mentors and coaches over the years for the guidance they have given and the passion they have shown to improve him as an umpire. He also values the role that experienced umpires played in ‘showing me the ropes’, whether that be at AFL, VFL or local level.
Most of all Luke would like to thank his family for what they have done to allow him to live out his dream. His parents drove him all around the Mornington Peninsula as a kid when he first started his umpiring career. For Luke, it was the pocket money he earned, for his parents it was just another chapter in driving their sons around the country to make them happy and to allow them to chase their ambitions.
His wife has been a ‘winter widow’ in an AFL sense for the last 14 years. “The opportunities and adventures she has passed up for me to do what l want to do, words can’t describe it. For that l am eternally grateful”.
Looking ahead five years, Luke was philosophical. “I’ve never been one to look too far ahead, and to be honest l will struggle to let you know what my life will look like in 5 weeks, let alone 5 years.” However, Luke is a sports lover so he hopes to be involved in some capacity, whether it be playing or coaching.
In finishing up, Luke wishes to be remembered as being someone who turned up and did the best they could with the ability they were given. The AFLUA congratulations Luke on his outstanding career and wishes him all the best in his future endeavours.
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly