The fascination for goal umpiring started at a young age for Steve Axon, who this weekend will officiate his 200th game between Adelaide and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.
Steve’s passion for umpiring began when he was 13, playing football in the morning and goal umpiring in the afternoon. Steve started umpiring in 1996 with the SA Amateur Football League before joining the SANFL in 1997 as a 16 year old.
Steve was promoted to the AFL list in 2005 and umpired in his first game between Port Adelaide and Carlton in Round 4. Steve was awarded heritage number 311. That weekend ended up being a highlight in Steve’s life for numerous reasons. His first game ended up in a draw. “Both teams were locked away on 94 points! I remember running in at the end of the game chuckling to myself and thinking, did that seriously just happen!” Steve umpired that game with Ante Perkovic who is someone Steve admired and respected. He will always remember that game for another reason, that being that he contemplated giving umpiring away coming into his debut year.
Since then, Steve has umpired 199 games to date including 14 finals and 2 grand finals.
Steve umpired the 2007 and 2008 AFL Grand Finals. The 2007 Grand Final between Geelong and Port Adelaide stands out as a major highlight having only umpired 35 AFL games before becoming the first SA goal umpire to officiate in a grand final. Umpiring with his childhood idol Anthony black (his last AFL game) was “icing on the cake” for him.
Steve has been lucky enough to umpire in many great games, including the Preliminary Final between Geelong and Collingwood in 2007 with a crowd of 98,000 seeing Geelong beat Collingwood by 5 points. The last ever game at AAMI Stadium back in Round 19 2013 in the game between Port Adelaide and Adelaide is one of Steve’s best home and away matches. “Port were 20 points down with only 6 minutes to play, and I was lucky enough to be down Port’s end in the last quarter”. He went on to say that, “Angus Monfries kicked one of the most freakish goals you’ll see… the ball bounced in the middle of the behind area and went at right angles through the goals”. Port Adelaide went on to win the epic battle by four points – The first showdown to be decided by less than a goal.
Over the 21 years Steve has been umpiring, there have been many people who have influenced his life. He acknowledged his first coach Bruce Forster from the Amateur League getting him through his first year that ignited his career. However, Steve explained that Mostyn Rutter has been the biggest influencer when he joined the SANFL. “I would never have umpired AFL if it wasn’t for him convincing me to stick around for the 2005 season”. Steve managed to umpire 9 SANFL Grand Finals over the 11 years Mostyn coached him. He has also looked up to Ante Perkovic, Leo Corrieri and Steve Murphy, who was the most influential running umpire in the early years.
When reflecting on his 200th game milestone, umpiring means everything to Steve. He is someone that has lived and breathed goal umpiring since he was so young. “It’s been a long road and hasn’t been easy being a non-Victorian based goalie, so the support has helped me reached this milestone. In particular my parents and brothers, but above all, having a very understanding wife has allowed me to continue doing what I love.”
Steve’s key to success over the journey includes sacrifices, dedication, hard work, consistency and resilience. Being involved in our great game and umpiring at one of Australia’s greatest sports stadiums in front of a packed crowd is what drives Steve’s passion.
Playing it smart and managing the body is the key advice with how fortunate Steve has been with injuries over the years. He has only missed a couple of games due to a dodgy knee. Steve has a few superstitions before games which includes, packing his bag the night before, wearing the same black bonds and explorer socks each week and even a coffee before a game is a must!
Steve admits that the most significant change he has dealt with in his time in umpiring, would have to be the score review system. “You tend to replay decisions in your head a lot more knowing that each and every decision is going to be looked at from various angles”. Outside of football… Steve’s passion lives with horse racing. He had 3 horses going around up until not long ago. His brother was a jockey so it’s a family passion.
When looking back on his career, Steve wants to be remembered as a good consistent umpire who gave it everything over a long period of time.
Congratulations on 200 games Steve, may you have many more memories to come.
Article written by: AFLUA Administration Assistant, Julia Gauci