Congratulations to all of our colleagues who were appointed to the first AFL grand final in 2018. In particular it was great to see our second year AFL rookie John Howorth from the VFL get appointed to his first AFLW grand final. John was very pleased and simply saw it as another opportunity to test his skills in a high pressure final. Andrew Adair came from nowhere in his first season on the AFLW panel to not only win a place in the GF but also to replace Alex Whetton on the rookie panel for 2018. Andrew hails from Queensland. Both John and Andrew are also members of the ADP panel coached by Stuart Wenn. They were joined by female pathway umpire from Victoria, Annie Mirabile in her second season as an AFLW field umpire. It was also Annie’s first grand final.
Two first gamers took to the field over the weekend both boundary umpires from Victoria. Patrick Jackson becomes the 573rd and Patrick Dineen, the 574th boundary umpires to be appointed to a VFL/AFL game. Both umpired at the MCG in front of big crowds.
Nick Brown was back in for his first AFL game since 2016. When we chatted today he was just about to put his gear through the wash for the second time. It was pretty wet and muddy in Cairns, but nothing was going to wipe the smile off his face. “I’m still a little sore and tired from the extreme conditions, but I am looking forward to this weekend,” said a low key Nick.
Congratulations to our other milestone umpires this week. Chris Appleton, 250 AFL games and James Scully 50 games. Both men have had setbacks during their careers but have character and perseverance written all over them. Congratulations.
Two other former AFL umpires were also back in official roles with the AFL. Life member and former AFL goal umpire Doug Gourlay has been appointed as the AFL Goal Umpires coach for season 2018 replacing Steve Stirling. Doug who has been involved in community football for many years mentoring young umpires, decided to put his hand up when the vacancy was advertised. Doug umpired 273 AFL games including 14 finals and 2 grand finals (1993 and 2001)between 1986 and 2003. Former AFL field umpire Brett Ritchie becomes the match day coach in Queensland. Brett was a member of the AFL panel in 2011-2012 umpiring 22 AFL games. Brett moved to Queensland late last year for work and has taken up a place on the NEAFL umpiring panel and will also act as the match day coach when time allows.
Spare a thought for current boundary umpire Pat Cran who moved from Sydney to Melbourne over summer for work. His last game in 2017 was Sydney v Carlton, in front of 38,965 at the SCG when Sydney beat the Blues by 81 points. Fast forward to round 1 2018, Pat was front and centre at the MCG at the season opener in front of just over 90,000 spectators in his first career game at the G. He obviously still hasn’t recovered well enough to reply to a call we put in to him last Friday.
Injuries are still plaguing some of our more experienced umpires. Justin Schmitt, Scott Jeffery and Brent Wallace all have leg injuries and will miss the first three weeks of AFL appointments. Couple them with veteran boundary umpires, Drew Kowalski and Shane Thiele and the panel is missing some real grunt. It is very disappointing in particular for Shane when you consider he was injured in round 22 last year in Tasmania when the ground wasn’t cleared properly after fireworks were let off as the competing teams entered the ground.
Playing football across the nation over four days saw huge swings in temperature and conditions. From torrential rain in Cairns to 32 degree heat in Adelaide and pretty much everything else in between. Footy is back!
We are looking forward to the return to our Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience this week for young adults with Down Syndrome in both Melbourne and Sydney. Look out for those pictures and stories next week.