Following Alistair Meldrum’s retirement, Tom Sullivan has been promoted to the AFL goal umpires’ list in Queensland for season 2022.
A lover of Aussie Rules, Tom played footy as a serviceable midfielder at the age of 10 in the juniors, but quickly realised that playing at the top level was not a career path he would follow. He started field umpiring junior footy in 2011 whilst also playing, and then over the next few years he oscillated between field and goal umpiring in the Central Coast Juniors competition. From 2014, he began goal umpiring in the Black Diamond AFL, which would eventually culminate in him umpiring the 2016 and 2017 Premier Division Grand Finals.
In November 2017, he graduated from Lisarow High School and returned to Queensland soon after. Umpiring in Queensland was particularly helpful to Tom’s career. With both State (NEAFL and more recently the VFL Eastern Seaboard League) and community (QAFL) tiers of football has provided a unique opportunity for Tom to shift between leagues on a week-to-week basis and enabled him to become more focused as an umpire. He was rewarded for his efforts when he was appointed to the 2018, 2019 and 2020 QAFL Grand Finals.
In 2020, Tom joined the AFLW squad and finished the 2021 season by umpiring the AFLW Grand Final. Umpiring the grand final in front of 22,000 people was a career highlight, perhaps pipped by the phone call telling him of his promotion to the AFL. Another great moment for Tom was attending the Under 18’s championships in Melbourne in 2019 where he met a number of umpires from across Australia and got to umpire on a number of AFL grounds at Marvel and Kardinia Park.
Always up for a challenge, the intensity and high standards required to goal umpire in the AFL was appealing to Tom. He likes to hold himself to high standards, and is constantly seeking opportunities to improve, whether it be him umpiring, his studies, or just as a person generally.
Tom’s advice for up-and-coming umpires is to always enjoy your umpiring. For him, he doesn’t worry about whether he’ll be in the right position every time, he focuses on enjoying the atmosphere of umpiring community and state-league football. In his experience, if you have a positive mindset, the technical aspects of umpiring will follow. Another key element is to be receptive to coaches’ feedback; even if the feedback is not what you want to hear, take it on board and apply it in your next game.
Tom is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland and is about to enter his third year of studies. When he has time, he likes going to the beach, hiking the mountains or travel.
Congratulations Tom on your promotion and we wish you all the best for the year ahead.