To celebrate Community Umpiring Round, former AFL goal umpire and new SFNL field umpire Luke Walker was kind enough to join the boys on The 5th Quarter this weekend, reflecting on his umpiring career at the top level and his return to grassroots level.
Walker was a goal umpire at AFL level from 2004-2017 in a decorated career than included many highlights. His CV is an impressive one with 261 AFL games, 37 AFL finals, seven AFL Grand Final’s as well as being a four-time All Australian goal umpire.
He currently holds the title of most finals umpired as a goal umpire and finished off his AFL career at the 2017 Grand Final between Adelaide and Richmond.
Walker was able to provide some fascinating insight into the life of an elite AFL umpire as he discussed numerous experiences from his time in the system with Wiz, Bug and Beanie.
Walker witnessed some of the biggest moments in recent AFL Grand Final history, officiating in both the drawn 2010 Grand Final as well as the replay the following week.
He had the best seat in the house when Lenny Hayes pumped the ball inside 50 over the head of a running Stephen Milne, only for the ball to land on its point and dribble through for a behind.
In one of the most debated passages of play in recent years, the man in prime position reveals whether he believes Milne had any chance of keeping the ball in play.
“It’s an interesting question that does come up quite a bit. From my perspective I was watching the ball pretty hard but it did seem to skip away from him,” Walker revealed.
Even if he did keep it in though, Walker wasn’t convinced that it would’ve ended up in a goal.
“The issue he had was there was a Collingwood player right on his hammer. Even if he did knock it back in, I don’t think he would’ve been able to pick it up and get it through for a goal in time.”
At the time it was Walker’s first appearance in a Grand Final and he was secretly hopeful of a big moment near his end.
“To be lucky enough to be given a chance to get a Grand Final, I was always hopeful of a famous goal or a great mark in front of me.”
He witnessed two famous moments that day, when only minutes earlier Brendon Goddard soared above a pack to take a classic Grand Final mark and level the scores.
Not to be outdone, the following week he once again found himself in the thick of the action when he witnessed the ‘smother of the century’ only a metre away, when Heath Shaw snuck up on Nick Riewoldt in the goal square.
After finishing up at the elite level following the conclusion of last season, Walker was keen to stay involved within the game and is now a field umpire in the SFNL, an experience he is enjoying immensely.
“It’s great being out there running around. I’m learning something new every week. The concentration factor is a lot more than goal umpiring. But I always loved local footy and I’ve always had a passion for it.”
Walker is also relishing the slightly more relaxed culture that is prevalent throughout the competition.
“To get to the games, watch the two’s and speak to everyone involved within the clubs is great. There’s certainly a lot more involvement with people at this level compared to the AFL which is very structured.”
Walker is just one of over 300 active participants who umpire football in the SFNL, with the umpires making up the league’s 37th and largest club.
The umpiring department are always looking for enthusiastic new members to join the team, so if you love your footy and want to make a few bucks on the side sign up today!
If you are interested in becoming a football or netball umpire in the SFNL, visit sfnl.com.au/umpiring for further details or to register for season 2018.