Best on ground – AFL Grand Final, 2012
Deakin University Alumni and field umpire, Matt Stevic will be umpiring in the 2012 AFL Grand Final between Hawthorn and Sydney. Matt heads into the Grand Final as an “All Australian AFL Umpire” with 195 games experience, including 10 finals and acting as emergency fill in for the 2011 Grand Final against Collingwood and Geelong.
Matt studied Applied Science (Sport Coaching and Administration), which has since become the Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science with a major in Sport Coaching. Matt says that getting a qualification opens up many doors and has allowed him to meet people including his mentor David Parkin who is both a lecturer in Sports and Exercise Science at Deakin University and a former player at the Hawthorn Football Club who went on to coach Hawthorn and Carlton.
David says of Matt, “Matt is the number one umpire in Australia because he put his nose down and tried hard. Great athletes seek feedback that they may dislike in order to improve. Matt is smart enough to have a number of mentors and takes the tough feedback and works with it better than anyone.”
With a keen interest in sport, Matt had his first taste of the field as a 12 year old boundary runner with his mate. Matt worked his way up to umpiring and saying umpires train ten and a half months of the year to stay in shape and ensure they have the required mental fitness to make decisions quickly and accurately, a trait required in any AFL game. An umpire can run 14km’s in a game so it is important to stay fit and healthy.
As part of the 2012 AFL Grand Final, Matt will partake in the Grand Final Parade held in Melbourne from 12pm Friday, 28th of September as well as attending the AFL dinner. To prepare for the game, Matt will be studying football games from the season to re-familiarise himself with various aspects of game play.
Matt recalls his favourite umpiring moment so far, saying, “It was the 2009 ANZAC game. It was my 100th game and Collingwood were 3 goals up with 3 minutes to go, but Essendon came through to score 3 goals and win the match.”
For Deakin students looking to follow a similar career path, Matt says, “The work/life balance is important. It is important to have another profession to take your mind off footy. Some elite athletes have no choice but to sometimes be full time, but completing a degree allows them to further develop their professional skills.”
Matt’s favourite thing about umpiring is being involved in “arguably the greatest game in the world and officiating unbelievable athletes.” He says “the role of an umpire is both rewarding and challenging and it is incredible to be involved in the Grand Final in a small but important role. You hope people enjoy the game and talk about how fantastic the play was rather than talking about the umpiring.”