Steve Axon started this season on 233 games and never thought he’d make it to 250 with the season compressed to 18 rounds but there he was in round 18 umpiring his 250th AFL game – Adelaide v Richmond on Saturday 19th September in front of one of the biggest crowds this season at Adelaide Oval.
It’s a credit to Steve that he was umpiring this year at all but that’s a story for another day. In fact, he had one of his best seasons finishing the year as Emergency Goal Umpire for the 2020 AFL Grand Final.
Since debuting back in 2005, Steve has umpired two AFL Grand Finals – 2007 and 2008 and been honoured with being named All-Australian Goal Umpire in 2007.
Steve’s love of goal umpiring began from the minute he donned the white lab coat to goal umpire his older brother’s college football games at the age of 13. He loved the uniqueness, theatrics and individual flair that could be applied to the craft. In doing so, he also enjoyed and fed off the crowd reactions. The adrenaline, excitement and being charged with the responsibility to adjudicate the scores are other things he enjoys about the role, particularly when there is a tight decision to be made and the suspense that creates in front of a packed house.
His career highlight was his first game Port Adelaide v Carlton in 2005 and also his first AFL Grand Final. He recalls the week leading up to the grand final being really exciting in Adelaide with Port Adelaide involved and Steve being the first SA goal umpire to officiate in a grand final. To umpire with his idol Anthony Black, who was officiating his last AFL game, was also very special.
2020 has been an interesting year for all involved and a very challenging year for Steve when he was made redundant from work the day before entering the QLD Hub in Round 3. So the year has been filled with uncertainty which is difficult for someone who likes to plan and have some stability in his life. Umpiring 3 double-headers during his two week stay was another challenge in itself as he had never umpired two games over a weekend in his entire 16 year career. He says it was a great experience and unique as it provided an opportunity to not only challenge his ‘set’ preparation and routines, but also build relationships and friendships with other umpires inside the Hub.
Steve is not one to single out the many people that have helped him with his journey. He says those people (particularly in the last 12 months) know who they are, and he will be eternally grateful for their support. Having said that, if it wasn’t for his former coach Mostyn Rutter who convinced him to stay around for the 2005 season, he might never have umpired AFL. Mostyn had exceptional qualities as a coach and knew how to get the best out of Steve. This was validated by Steve’s remarkable record under his coaching – 9 grand finals in 11 years. Steve also acknowledged the terrific support of his wife Liz who has been very understanding and selfless in letting Steve pursue his career dreams and is the rock of their beautiful family.
Steve, what a journey. Congratulations on your 250th AFL game! Well deserved!