The Man Behind the Whistle

It’s not an easy job. We hear and read about them all the time. To most people they are just a colour and a number. But, have you ever wondered what makes an AFL umpire tick?
The following profiles give us a sneak peak into the life of an AFL umpire.
We speak to Mathew Nicholls
Your favourite song for karaoke?
I am somewhat ashamed to say that I used to sing along to Bust a Move… Certainly won’t catch me doing that anymore!
Are you ever recognised by fans?
Not too often, the shaved/bald head gives me away sometimes though!
What other sports do you follow?
Golf, cycling.
What’s the funniest thing a player has ever said to you?
When I was umpiring VFL a number of years ago, an AFL player who had been dropped to his club’s VFL team said to me “no wonder you’re in the seconds!” I found the irony of his comment quite amusing and proceeded to not-too subtly reminded him of where he was playing that day…
Do you have any bad/annoying habits?
Funniest thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?
There was a joke written about me after I didn’t hear the siren in the game down at Launceston in 2005! It certainly wasn’t too funny at the time, but looking back I can have a bit of a laugh at it! Even my mum sent it to me – she somehow had a bit of pride that a joke had been written about her son!? A cartoon in the paper depicting me with a guide dog after that game was also rather amusing given that I have a couple of Labradors at home!
Who do you most admire?
My wife – for putting up with me! She is a tremendous support, as are my family, and that’s who I have the most admiration for.
I also admire anyone who has the guts to give umpiring a go and get out onto the ground every weekend, regardless of the level of footy.
Who is the funniest umpire?
The theatrics when Marty Ellis tells a joke are usually funnier than the joke itself, but he still makes me laugh! Shaun Ryan tells a great story.
Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I once had a full head of hair!
Occupation/qualifications outside of football?
Procurement and Budget officer; currently studying part time for a Bachelor of Business and Commerce
What was the last good deed you did?
Hosted the family for dinner. Wouldn’t dare cook though!

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