A Family Affair

Aspiring AFL field umpire Ben Laycock’s progression through the Western Australian umpiring ranks has been unconventional yet equally remarkable. But what makes his story so special and unique is very much a family affair.

Laycock 17, began his umpiring career at the age of ten, under the shadows of his well established older brothers.   Emerging as a quality goal umpire for the Swan Districts Junior Umpiring Association, Laycock partnered older brother Jonathon (then 14) in several games, the pair quickly becoming a classy goal umpiring act.  Together they goal umpired both the under 17’s grand final and Amateur League Division A Colts grand final for three consecutive years.   The pair could’ve grown to become something very special as they progressed into the WAFL, following older brother Matthew who had established himself umpiring at reserve level.   Even local media got in on the act with The Western Front, a pre match day TV program filming a story on all three brothers umpiring the one match. The family act was already creating quite a buzz.

On top of this brotherly dominance on the umpiring field, Laycock’s mother Anne-Marie Laycock was creating her own legacy. Anne-Marie selflessly attends all junior training sessions and cooks up a storm for the umpires at the end of each cold night.  She has since won a SDJUA Clubman Award for her efforts and is a highly respected and loved woman in the Swan Districts fraternity and a proud mother of her aspiring boys.

Laycock, already amassing achievements at the Swan Districts, quickly set his sights on bigger things. He decided to break away from the trend of his flag waving brothers to blow the whistle instead as a field umpire. It was a decision and commitment Laycock took extremely seriously, and one that would be supported at Swan Districts Juniors. 

Laycock was an eager participant in the AFL’s Green Shirt Program, wearing the now traditional green shirt for new and inexperienced umpires. “I found the green shirt to be extremely beneficial, I really got the support of the coaches and players which is great,” said Laycock.  Laycock’s first year mentor and now AFL Goal Umpire Brett Rogers reflects on Laycock’s obvious potential, “I was lucky enough to be a mentor for Ben in one of his matches in the green shirt. It was then where I clearly saw first hand his potential as a field umpire.”  In the few years that followed, Laycock developed this potential through the guidance of Swan Districts Junior Umpiring Association coaches and mentors, preparing Laycock of the next level.

The next level was to be the Field Umpiring Development Squad, an AFL structured pathway for umpires with identified potential. The squad aimed to bridge umpires’ skills with hopes to field umpire in the WAFL. The extra intensity and commitment required of the umpires at this level, was where Laycock thrived. Still umpiring juniors, Laycock’s dedication was rewarded with the SDJUA Umpire of the Year Award, after officiating the under 17’s grand final. Laycock was still only 15 years old.

Late 2008, a delighted Laycock got the call up to the WAFL, debuting in Round 23. Over the summer Laycock dedicated himself to improving his fitness and cementing a permanent spot at WAFL level. Pre-season trials saw Laycock clock an impressive 13:58sec for the 4km time trial, the second fastest time in the group. To many onlookers, the youngsters results may of come as a surprise but not to Laycock’s umpiring coach Sav Borg, “he’s extremely determined and never gives less than 110 percent, you couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Borg.

Laycock was quickly elevated to the WAFL Panel in early 2009 and has already made an impressive start to the season. The determined Laycock, not one to sit back and admire his own achievements is firmly focused on his bright future, “umpiring at the elite AFL level is my ultimate goal,” said Laycock. When questioned on the possibility of umpiring at AFL level with older brothers Matthew and Jonathon Laycock who are each progressing well in their pursuit of goal umpiring at the elite level, Laycock quipped, “I would love nothing more than to share such an experience with my two brothers, that would be a family affair to remember.”

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