According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 77% of males aged between 45 and 54 are overweight.

Standing in stark contrast of this disheartening statistic is AFL boundary umpire Shane Thiele (heritage no. 531). At 47 years old, Thiele will become the oldest umpire to reach the 300-game mark when he runs the boundary for the Geelong vs Carlton game at the MCG.

Most AFL umpires begin at childhood, usually following the lead of parents or siblings. However, a late starter, Thiele wouldn’t begin running the boundary line until his early twenties.

“I had been a runner at a relatively good level but wasn’t quite getting to where I wanted to be. Thought it a good idea to combine both the running and umpiring, given my love of footy, and didn’t look back.”

After excelling in the SANFL, where he’s umpired three Grand Finals and been awarded best boundary umpire twice, Thiele broke into the AFL in 2009. He debuted in 2009 when Port Adelaide met Essendon in front of 28,000 fans at AMMI stadium.

“I was on the field with 3 boundary umps who combined did 22 AFL Grand Finals between them. No pressure there! I had my first throw in at the 2 minute mark of the first quarter, and then didn’t blow my whistle again for the day.”

Many memorable moments have come since, including the “bizzare feeling” of umpiring AFL football in China, and the Bombers vs Tigers Dreamtime game played in Darwin.

“The atmosphere was amazing, and I have never heard a welcome to country like the one we had that night. Was buzzing from that moment on.”

Beyond the spectacles and exhibition games, for Thiele his 300th will be the highlight of his career, owing to the years of labour and dedication required to get there.

“I know many say it but in my early years all I wanted was to get a shot at AFL footy, and to now last this long is something I am truly proud of. It has taken a lot of work, but it has also taken a village around me. I think we will all enjoy this weekend as a result.”

Reaching such a milestone is impossible without facing and overcoming challenges. Thiele’s biggest challenge came in 2012, when he made the call to move from Adelaide to Melbourne.

“I was enjoying my AFL umpiring in Adelaide, but we had a surplus of boundary umpires at the time. I saw it as a good opportunity to further my umpiring by coming across, and have umpired far more games than I may have otherwise.”

“A number of umps/coaches in Melbourne have been super supportive of me and my family during our time in Melbourne. I am not sure we would have coped otherwise.”

Now at 47, the veteran boundary rider says that the secret to his longevity has been his passion for running.

“I am pretty big on ensuring I am physically prepared coming into the season and then likewise week-by-week. Thankfully I have a real passion for running, I just love it, so this tends to be an enjoyable aspect of my life/umpiring anyhow. I think getting into umpiring later than most has actually helped me long term. It definitely gave me an excellent running base coming in.”

The AFLUA congratulates Shane on his outstanding achievement. Good luck for your milestone game.


Article by Jackson Kerr

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