“When I retired at the end of 2011, I was content that I had achieved all that I had ever wanted from umpiring.  I was at peace with myself and had no regrets,” reflected Shaun Ryan when we spoke to him today as he drove from his home town of Torquay to Carlton for training.

“However, when I was approached by Hayden Kennedy and Wayne Campbell in 2014 about coming out of retirement, my first reaction was, really?  Three years out of the game is a horribly long time.  There were massive rule and interpretation changes, plus the physical requirements were going to be demanding.”  Shaun had the support of his family, his young boy Ned was never old enough to remember his father running around in those five consecutive AFL grand finals.

If there is one thing we know about Shaun or Ryano as he is known around umpiring circles, it is that he was always up for a challenge.  So when he had his appetite wetted, the passion was reignited, there was no turning back.  “Nobody had come back after three years away from the game.  When life presents its challenges you say, you know what, I can do that.”   

At the end of 2011 Shaun was burned out.  The mental and physical demands of umpiring at the elite level over those grand final seasons had battered him.  “It was painful laying flat on my back in the change rooms after every game too sore to get up.  I was too young for this to be happening.  Injuries were taking a toll.”

While at work he was constantly asked about decisions and footy because  more often he had the marquee games and wasn’t away doing the less viewed matches.  Shaun couldn’t escape the growing demands of an umpire in AFL football.  “I had a young family and a growing business, I needed to concentrate my energies into those things,” reflected Ryano, “So I retired.”

Ryano went into 2015 with no expectations.  It took him 20 games to find his feet and regain the consistency he demanded from himself.  “I was good one week and not so good the next.”  The learnings were all new.  The other thing we know about Ryano is that anything less than perfection isn’t good enough.

“This year is good.  It has been very enjoyable.  I feel that I am much more consistent.”  When It came to talking about finals Ryano was quick to shut it down.  “I just want to do really well and where it ends up it ends up.”

One thing is for sure, he now has 250 AFL games up and it isn’t ending anytime soon.  

Article written by: AFLUA CEO, Peter Howe

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