By Michael McCormick
Having to break up a fight in London may be a common occurrence for some, especially on a weekend. When you’re on your own, trying to break up a fight between two teams of footballers is a whole new ball game.
This was the situation that AFL England Umpire, George Wood found himself in during one of the first games he umpired.
“I came off the ground that day feeling absolutely spent, that’s when you know you’ve put your best effort in,” stated Wood. “Or it means you’re really unfit.”
Wood, who watched a lot of AFL growing up in Australia, has ambitions of becoming an umpire in the TAC Cup, through which most of the current and past greats of the game were recruited.
Wood became hooked with the game at a very early age.
“My earliest memory would probably be at Auskick when I was about five years old. It really helped set down some good foundation skills for me.”
Wood believes that Australian Football is growing in popularity due to the athleticism of the players and entertainment of the fast paced games.
“When Geelong full forward, Tom Hawkins kicked a goal after the siren against Hawthorn to win the game in 2012, I was ecstatic,” remarked Wood.
“They came from the brink of defeat to snatch the game as a result of pure determination and will and that’s what makes footy great.”
Wood also watches a lot of games to analyse the umpires in order to improve his own skills.
“They really establish a presence on the ground and a commanding aura. So I try to replicate them as much as possible.”
Wood underpins confidence as the number one factor that will determine the success of an umpire on the field. He advocates standing by decisions and not being afraid to blow the whistle.
“Don’t allow outside influences to impact your decision, you’re there for a reason.”
Playing Australian Football in two countries is an achievement in itself but when neither of those countries are Australia, it is a rarity.
ARFLI umpire, John Enright has accomplished that and much more in his career to date.
Born in a small town in the County of Kerry in Ireland, it wasn’t until Enright moved to Ontario, Canada that he began playing Australian Football. Upon returning to Ireland after his Canadian gap year, with a premiership medallion around his neck, Enright joined a local team and continued to grow his passion for the sport.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Enright’s umpiring crusades kicked off, being thrown I the deep end and made to umpire the ARFLI Grand Final.
“I initially went to the game as a spectator but the assigned umpire was at a wedding the night before and was late in arriving,” said Enright.
“I was asked to step in and so got my first shot at blowing the whistle.”
Enright was exhilarated by being in control of the match and was hooked from there.
Over the next few years, Enright went on to complete many course and become one of the most accredited Indigenous umpires in Europe.
This level of commitment lead to his finest moment – coordinating and managing the European Championships in Dublin in 2013.
“It was a quite a thrill to assign umpires for games and to umpire prominently in a major European Championships,” said Enright.
He now has sights set on representing European umpires at the International Cup in 2017 which he believes to be quite achievable.
He has a less realistic goal of umpiring at an International Rules game between Ireland and Australia yet with his prior experience as a Gaelic Football referee and an AFL umpire, Enright has established himself as a prime candidate for the role.
Enright also believes that being an umpire is a very fortunate position to have and one not to take for granted.
“Don’t be afraid to have a go,” said Enright to any aspiring and young umpires.
“Be confident in your decision making and enjoy the game from the best seat in the house.”
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