Five hundred and two games after an inauspicious start in a Carlton v Sydney match at Princess Park in 1994, the curtain has finally come down on one of the real characters of AFL umpiring.
Let’s take nothing away from the resilience, perseverance, training commitment and the survival instincts of the man known as “Hack” he is currently the GOAT of umpiring in the elite competition known as AFL Football.
Shane could often be heard saying, “Listen son, this is a performance-based industry and only those who preform stay,” and stay he did, for 29 years on the AFL panel. Inside the tent the football industry has changed its attitudes to umpires and umpiring significantly over many years. The impromptu player’s guard of honour for Shane at the end of his record breaking 496th game between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs was breath taking. Shane had to call on all of his reserves to not become very emotional when he found out on the final siren what the players wanted to do this to recognise his feat. Further, when Shane achieved his 500th game the AFLPA put out a video of every club captain congratulating Shane on his achievement. The AFLCA sent 4 senior AFL coaches to training on the Thursday night to congratulate him. The football industry worked as one to recognise an amazing achievement. The players in the Richmond and Melbourne match again formed a guard of honour to recognise his achievement on reaching 500 games.
Shane was recruited from Ballarat. His coach in those early years was Phil Waight, an ex VFL umpire, who saw his potential. Ian Brown a long time VFL observer and AFLUA Hall of Fame umpire watched Shane and liked the cut of his jib.
Shane’s sister, Melissa said at his 400th celebration, “Umpiring and Shane were suited to each other. He is well planned, methodical, consistent, analytical and determined and they are all of the characteristics suited to becoming an elite umpire.”
Shane was best cast on match day as the coin tosser. Just ask former Hawthorn captain, Jarrod Roughead. Shane called Jarrod, Jordan twice on the first day he officially captained Hawthorn at the toss and despite being corrected twice, Shane continued the error much to the chagrin of Jarrod. At his 400th game Shane walked over to the young girl about to toss the coin and said, “I’m Shane McInerney, 400 game umpire!” I guess you need to know Shane’s humour. He is extremely self-effacing and is willing to get a rise out of any situation to break the tension.
As a young man who grew up in Ballarat, who would think that Shane would travel and umpire in London, New Zealand, Ireland and Shanghai. The latter being his favourite city in the world to visit. So, what did Shane say about those trips? “What happens on the trip stays on the trip.” He quickly moved on to the next topic of conversation.
Shane’s good mate, Stephen McBurney (401 AFL games) said it best, “Shane has demonstrated remarkable resilience throughout an exceptional career. He is, above all else, an absolutely professional and committed umpire. Anyone who doubts that only needs to observe Shane’s match day preparation. Shane is steadfast in his commitment to be the best umpire he can be. I speak with him on most Mondays. He invariably asks me to look at one of his decisions. It struck me that he does this to get an objective opinion, and to seek continuous improvement. He doesn’t want a popular answer, he demands an honest answer. Tell me what you really think he always says. Even in the twilight of his career, he takes enormous pride in his umpiring. He is determined to get the job done. While we can all make mistakes under the pressure cooker of AFL games, he has never been guilty of getting the rules wrong. He adheres steadfastly to the one-percenters. He does the skills as well as anyone. For someone who tends to talk a bit off the field, his communication on the field is incredibly succinct, relevant, precise and persuasive. He never buys into arguments with players, he always maintains his composure and he sets an example of professionalism and accountability that is quite exceptional. What we admire most about Shane is that he always has your back. We will also never die wondering what Shane thinks.”
Congratulations Shane on a fantastic career over so many years!!!