When five time grand final umpire, Shaun Ryan retired at the end of 2011 it bewildered many of his colleagues and caught the AFL by surprise. Shaun was just not enjoying his football anymore. Despite his success over the previous five years the constant grind of training on his body was becoming torturous and the grind of travelling to and from Torquay coupled with leaving his young family most weekends took its toll.
When we caught up with Shaun this week he was looking forward to all of the challenges that 2015 will bring. “I just hope I react quickly when a guy runs behind the goal line and plays on and not 10 seconds too late,” joked Shaun. “I will need to learn to react to those little things that I don’t have in the forefront of my mind.”
Shaun has spent the last three years adding another child to his family, growing his business interests and keeping very fit by competing in five half ironman events and numerous triathlons. “I was probably fitter doing all of that training than I was umpiring,” reflected Shaun. His best result was winning his last half ironman in Fiji in his age group and finishing 6th overall. “The social side of keeping fit was great. I did many trail runs, mountain bike rides and swims which suited my lifestyle.”
So why did Shaun decide to make a comeback? “I went from saying no initially, to thinking at age 39 I wonder if I can get back to the level I once achieved. It is elite sport, can I find those drivers again?” With his families support he decided to give it another crack. “I haven’t set myself high expectations, I want to sit back and enjoy being involved at the elite level again. I see myself working with the young umpires in games and being a positive role model for them. I want to show them the standards they need to aspire to to be successful”
Shaun has really enjoyed getting back into match simulation and club visits. “I have only been away for three years but there has been a dramatic turnover in players at clubs in that time. I have walked into a couple of clubs and thought, I don’t know most of these blokes.”
Always up for the challenge I have no doubt Shaun won’t take long to regain his feet in the hustle and bustle of 2015 AFL footy. We wish him well.
Pictured: Shaun Ryan