Umpiring his 250th game between Geelong and Richmond at Metricon Stadium in front of a restricted crowd during the middle of a pandemic is not something Rob Findlay would have contemplated in the lead up to the 2020 football season.
Like many umpires with the onset of Covid19, a number of sacrifices have been made to keep football on the field. In Rob’s case, his journey began in Perth in Round One, with no crowds, after it had already been announced that the season was pausing with no one knowing when football would return. Rob was then supposed to umpire the Essendon v Melbourne game in Round 3 which was postponed. He moved out of his home into the Docklands prior to his game in Round 5 before he and his family were uprooted to the Gold Coast on the following Monday. He has spent most of his time there, with a two-day stint in Darwin, and an 18-hour day trip to Adelaide. He admits it’s been a unique experience but he’s grateful that he has been able to keep doing both his jobs, and, with his family enjoy a winter on the Gold Coast.
Rob loves field umpiring because of the fantastic team environment. As part of a small group of people that have a unique role in our great game, Rob loves how umpires support each other through good and bad times and celebrate successes together. He also likes that the role challenges him every day to be his best, and that there are always setbacks to learn from and improve both as an umpire and person.
Field umpiring at AFL level is demanding especially when you are required to maintain a high level of professionalism each week during a long season. He admits it’s much easier for him given the umpiring group’s high level of professionalism and that if he wants to keep up with them, he needs to do the same. For Rob, it is important for his umpiring standards to have other pursuits away from umpiring to break up the week and that his family and work outside umpiring do this for him.
As one of the more experienced field umpires, Rob believes he is an example to the younger members that if you are resilient, and persist, and are honest about your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to continually work on them, and always have a team first mentality, that you will steadily improve and give yourself opportunities to achieve what you want to achieve in umpiring and your personal life.
On the lighter side, Rob recalls a pre-season game at Blacktown Oval where a passing train blew its horn and the umpires called the end of the quarter. Lucky it was a preseason game and Rob was on the bench, though he admits that once as a young umpire he’d done the same in a junior game at Dandenong which, whilst embarrassing at the time, served as a good lesson.
Rob notes that the biggest difference he has noticed in his time in umpiring has been the resources devoted to the umpiring department. Where there was once two field umpire coaches doing all the coaching and assessment, there are now four full-time umpires coaches doing coaching, and a dedicated team doing the assessment, plus additional fulltime resources responsible for coaching and innovation, high performance, and a huge team of support staff assisting umpires to do their job.
With the constant disruptions this season, Rob has learned that being in the moment and enjoying what you’re doing, rather than always looking to the future, will make you happier, and generally lead to better performances. He admits that whilst this might sound simple, what is hard is remembering to live by this, and to consistently put it into practice. This has obviously worked with Rob being appointed to the AFL 2020 finals panel.
Once the season is over, Rob will regret leaving his beachside apartment on the Gold Coast, but he is eager to return home to Melbourne to see family and friends that he hasn’t seen for a long time.
Congratulations Rob on another great milestone!