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The Roar


The one word that isn’t in an AFL umpire’s vocabulary

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7th July, 2019

Long-serving AFL umpire Shane McInerney broke the all-time record for games officiated last weekend, umpiring his 496th match to surpass the long-standing mark set by current AFL umpire coach Hayden Kennedy.

What an incredible achievement, and with match number 500 on the horizon, imagine how amazing it would be reminiscing about games officiated in years gone by as you knock back a beer or two post game. One thing is for sure, McInerney has a lot to reflect on.

I am an Aussie rules umpire myself – I have been for over seven years. I started out as a junior having covered all disciplines – boundary and goal, as well as field umpiring – over the years.

I might not be the best umpire, but I have had the pleasure of training with the current and future elite panel we see run out on to the turf each week.

At one stage a few years ago, AFL umpires came down to training as part of Umpire Appreciation Round, which was an annual nation-wide initiative. After the elite whistleblowers ran some drills, a question and answer session was held.

One of the umpires in attendance was Shane McInerney, who was asked: “What’s one word you wouldn’t use on the field?”

The record-breaking official responded: “Sorry”.

AFL umpire Shane McInerney

Shane McInerney became the AFL’s most experienced umpire when he took charge of his 496th match last weekend, between Geelong at the Bulldogs. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

A man of his experience has to be confident with every decision he has made and will continue to make. McInerney went on to say that when he paid a decision, he’d stick with it and never apologise if he was told he made the wrong one, which as you might imagine, happens to every umpire. Wrong calls are a part of the game.


What I took from this session impacted the way I go about life, as well as the way I umpire the game I know and love.

Stick by your decision, take pride in what you do, and do it to the best of your ability. It might sound cliche, but it is 100 per cent true. Like the players, the men and women who umpire around the country inspire the fans that follow them.

The pathway to becoming an umpire at the top level has become more and more clear as we – the supporters and stakeholders of this great game of AFL – get more access to resources and personalities before, during and after matches, as well as during the week in some cases.

Umpires like McInerney would have never imagined they would encounter Roaming Brian heading into their quarters ten years ago, but this has allowed us to connect on a better level, creating a somewhat unprecedented respect for our game’s officials.

More people are willing to give umpiring a go, and who knows, they might officiate at the top level one day.


McInerney’s 496 games are an incredible achievement, and full credit goes to North Melbourne and Geelong for giving a legend in the umpiring community an exit from the Marvel Stadium surface he’ll never forget.

Fellow umpire Brett Rosebury took charge of his 400th game in March of this year, while the famous ‘Razor’ Ray Chamberlain celebrated his 300th last month.