The 3 P’s could best describe Sam Hunters’ appointment to umpire his first AFL match – Fremantle v West Coach on Sunday 19 July 2020 – Perseverance, Patience and Professionalism.
Sam became a rookie AFL umpire in 2017 and spent 3 years training with the Western Australia AFL goal umpires and sitting on the bench at a number of AFL games. He showed up week after week not knowing when an opportunity would present itself, if ever. This required him to be patient, knowing that his chance would come only when circumstances changed in WA. He maintained his professionalism in his approach to training and game day and he persevered physically and mentally, never doubting his opportunity would come.
And it did. Late in 2019, Luke Edwards announced that he was moving to Melbourne and would be doing so in March 2020. A few days out from his move, the season was postponed, and the WA borders closed. Given the uncertainty about football going ahead, Sam wasn’t appointed until it was clear the season would recommence. Fortunately for him, the season recommenced, and Luke moved to Melbourne and Sam was officially appointed. Covid19 certainly made for a unique start to his career, however now that he looks back on it, it makes for an awesome story. And he means it – debuting in the AFL during a pandemic, in a 2-week quarantine hub, a derby with a 25,000 crowd in Perth’s new stadium.
Umpiring his first game was like everything he’d imagined. He confessed there were definitely some nerves, but the first couple of decisions put him more at ease. He admits there is a big step up in intensity and speed from the players compared to the state league. His appointment also gave him the privilege of sharing his debut with his good mate Brett Rogers, who was officiating his 150th AFL game.
Sam’s first goal in AFL umpiring was by Josh Kennedy from a set shot after a mark 15 metres out. His best scoring shot of the day was Michael Frederick’s first goal in his first game of AFL football which bought the crowd to its feet.
Sam admits it is great having field umpires around in WA, their elite approach definitely rubs off on the rest of the group. He has also been fortunate to train alongside the WA based goalies, watching the three of them perform both on and off the field definitely pushed him far more than he would have otherwise.
Being a rookie put extra pressure on him to perform in the state league over a long period of time. Now that Sam is on the AFL panel, he wants to now focus on his consistency.
Congratulations Sam on your debut and we wish you continued success in the years to come.