In 1997 Andrew Mitchell started his umpiring journey with the Waverley Junior Football Association. Although this league has now disbanded, Andrew’s career certainly has not. This weekend in the Western Bulldogs v Essendon match, Andrew will umpire his 100th match.
Andrew’s first match also involved the Western Bulldogs when they played the West Coast Eagles in Round 1 2012. Andrew remembers umpiring with Mat Nicholls and Michael Jennings. “I got promoted to the list two weeks earlier after a successful trial period. Injuries at the time meant I made my debut in Round 1. It was a very special day with many family and friends attending.”
Andrew was 30 years of age at the time of his debut, having umpired 8 years and 150 games at VFL level. An amazing display of persistence and resilience, and something Andrew admitted brought a tear to his eye when he realised his dream. His first free kick was to Josh Kennedy who kicked the first of his seven goals in a comfortable victory for the Eagles that day. Not renowned for umpiring close finishes, it took Andrew a further 64 games before he had a match finish with under a goal the margin.
Andrew has set a meticulous standard when it comes to the preparation of his body throughout his career. To have umpired 14 years at the state and elite level, it takes an amazing amount of work. Andrew has never missed a week of football due to injury through this whole period. Only a recent shoulder reconstruction over the preseason put him in unfamiliar rehabilitation territory. As an example of his dedication and commitment (and with the aid of the physios) Andrew still made it back for Round 1 2017.
Along with his own phenomenal attitudes, Andrew has credited all his past and current coaches who have shaped and influenced the umpire he is today. Andrew’s wife, Alexis has also had a significant influence on his career. She has been there for most of the journey, riding the highs and lows and maintaining a great perspective on things. Andrew also mentions the joys of his kids who now recognise daddy on TV.
Career highlights for Andrew have included his first match, his first final in 2014 which was even more special because he was not expecting it, and of course this weekend. 100 games is something Andrew tells me he will look back on with great pride and satisfaction. He also talks about the privilege and opportunity he has had to be a part of the greatest game in the world. “Running out on the ground each week with a team of dedicated, professional and elite umpires and mates is amazing, and something we shouldn’t just take for granted.”
Andrew keeps things simple and says that even though interpretations of the rules change from time to time, paying the major and obvious free kicks remains the priority at the end of the day. Some wise words that Andrew hopes he can pass on to younger umpires to assist their development and improvement. Andrew’s supportive, caring and persistent nature is certainly something that is welcomed among his peers.
A fantastic career to date Andrew, may you have a wonderful 100th match and many more memories in the AFL system. Congratulations.
Written by Chris Gordon – Marketing & Communications Intern/Colleague & Friend