Over the Hill - Not this Ump

Australian football offers many milestones to those who dedicate their time to the sport, yet umpiring 1,000 games is not a milestone that comes around too often.

Geoff Coghill, 62, of Colac, chalked up that distinction when he patrolled the goal line in the Alvie versus Colac Imperials seniors match on Saturday August 7 2004, having already run as the central field umpire in two junior matches earlier that morning. Coghill’s historic day was celebrated with a banner made by his grandchildren and was attended by local newspapers and television networks.

Coghill began his umpiring career with the Geelong Umpires Association 39 years prior as an 18 year old, declaring he liked everything about the caper. He liked the fitness the job required, the friendship from fellow umpires and the football public.

Six years later, Coghill transferred to the Colac, offering his services to help establish the Colac Umpires Association. Coghill has since become a living legend across the frosty footy fields of the Colac and District Football League. As he embarks on his 45th season, Coghill has now umpired 1,149 games across nine leagues, officiating in conditions of all challenging varieties. The task of keeping the score at a game at Beech Forest in the 1970’s became a particularly drawn out process.  “We had to relay the scores from one end of the ground to the other, from goal umpire to goal umpire via the players, because it was so thickly fogged. We couldn’t see from one end to another,” he said.

“I also did a game up there one day and it was six inches in snow, said Coghill”

In 2005, Coghill cited sore knees and arthritic ankles as reason enough to move permanently to the goal square, yet he still keeps the old legs ticking over during the week. Coghill, who has been the associations’ training supervisor for over 10 years, still takes Monday night training and trains again on Wednesday.

An optistician by trade, Coghill is regularly reminded by the locals to make himself a new set of specs. He may not have taken the local footy fans up on their suggestion just yet but he has seen a number of today’s current AFL stars adhere to his whistle, including Luke Hodge, Scott Lucas and Nathan Foley, to name a few.

Born and breed in Geelong, Coghill is a passionate cats supporter, who despite last year’s grand final loss to Hawthorn, still gave Coghill “a lot of pleasure in 2008.” Coghill himself is no stranger to grand final day, having umpired in more grand finals than he can remember.

After a career that spans an amazing 45 years and is quickly closing in on an unimaginable 1,200th game milestone, you could be forgiven for being considered ‘over the hill,’ but not the evergreen Coghill. When questioned on what the future holds, Coghill declared that there is no end in sight.  “I just love everything about umpiring.”

The AFL would like to offer its sincere gratitude to Geoff Coghill and the countless other umpires across the country, who continue to selflessly offer their time and talents to ensure that Australian football remains the great game that it is today.

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