by Alexander Finney
Thursday, we flew into Melbourne and caught the sky-bus to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza. It was a beautiful motel – I have never stayed anywhere as luxurious. We unpacked and made our way to Othello’s restaurant. There, we got to meet the other state representatives, Andrew Hughes (AFL House), Sam Sheehan (AFL House) and the two volunteers, Bob and Terry were also there. This was a great night as we got to meet everybody and the food was delicious. I got to try some rice rolls which were wrapped in vine leaves. I have never tried such unusual food but it was all delicious. We talked about the parade and our game on the Saturday. Andrew was very easy to talk to and answered some simple umpiring questions I had.
We went down to the dining room and ate our breakfast. We saw some Sydney Swans players and guessed they were staying in the same hotel as us. I was wearing my green umpire shirt as we walked up to our room. At the top of the escalator Ted Richards (Swans centre half back) came running over to say hello to me. He saw my umpiring shirt and started asking questions about why I was in Melbourne. I was amazed that Ted Richards came up to me and took so much interest in what I had to say.
After that, Dad and I went down to the lobby where everyone was waiting to head out to the Arts Centre around 10.00am. We stopped at Federation Square as there were some AFL activities and the parents took some pictures of the whole group. We continued on to meet Andrew outside the Arts Centre. The parents left us to go to the VIP section where we would meet them at the end of the march. We went inside the Arts Centre as it was raining and waited for the march to commence. We were ushered outside to our place behind the NAB AFL Auskick children.
While we were marching everyone was taking pictures and there were thousands of people. We saw people leaning out of windows and watching the march from inside offices. I felt proud to be a part of the experience. At the end of the parade we sat on the steps outside the Old Treasury Building and waited for the players to arrive from behind us. They then filed onto the stage outside the Old Treasury Building, about a metre behind me! All our parents were right at the front so they could take pictures. After the speeches from both team captains finished, Dad and I found some friends from Mackay who were also involved in AFL, one being a life member and the other one being our senior umpire coordinator. We went and had lunch with them before going to the Sports Museum at the MCG.
The Sports Museum was fascinating and had lots of interesting memorabilia. I would have liked to have had more time there. There were shoes belonging to famous sportspeople – I was amazed at the size on Ian Thorpe’s shoes and how big his feet must be. No wonder he could swim so fast! We only had an hour but I got to see just how big the MCG actually is. It was an awesome sight to behold. I still couldn’t really believe I was going to umpire there the next day.
Today was the big day and everyone was talking about football in the dining room at breakfast. We met up around 11.00am with the kids and parents from the other states and went off to the MCG. We waited in a massive crowd of several thousand out the front of the MCG gate 1 entrance to get in. The crowd was a little restless but then a roar came from the front of the line and the gates were opened. Security checked bags just outside the entrance and then we scanned our tickets which Terry had handed out just before the gates opened. There were escalators and ticket signage everywhere. A few minutes later Dad and I were greeted by the awesome view that is the ‘G’. I scanned the arena and the huge crowd that would soon fill it to capacity. After about ten minutes, Andrew came and collected us (junior umpires) from our seats. We followed him down into the lower levels and it was like a maze. Eventually we came to a room where all of the Auskickers were sitting. We went and got changed. Jayden (South Australia) and I lead the Auskickers into the tunnel which is where we waited to go out onto the ground.
Jayden and I were appointed to the main centre game of all the 5 grid games, with players dressed in the colours of the two grand final teams, Swans and Hawks. After a bit of confusion, a lady told us to go so we ran out onto the MCG. We veered off to the right so we didn’t destroy the children’s Auskick banner and continued on till we reached the middle of the ground. The crowd was amazing. It was an awesome experience. There were people everywhere. The grass was very green and the wind was very strong.
I turned around to see all of the Auskickers trying to break through the banner. It was a funny sight as about fifty kids tried to break through the banner but couldn’t and eventually the people on either side of the banner just lifted it over the children. They all ran out towards us. There was a bit of confusion as we had no zones but I appointed some players to go down one end and others to go down the other end. I picked two people to be in the ruck and tossed the ball up. The game was underway. Towards the end of the 20minute game period, a huge gust of wind came through blowing away the goal posts so I stopped the game and everyone went back into the tunnel. I tried to make sure each little Auskicker got to touch the ball at least once and that they all had a fair go. I was congratulated by the sports commentators out on the field and Andrew was right there with us. We changed back into our normal clothes and went back to our seats, ready for the main game to start. What a ripper of a game with Swans managing to fight back and win by ten on the final siren. The crowd of more than 100 000 people was absolutely amazing and their roar when a goal was kicked was deafening. I never imagined how huge the MCG was or how big that crowd was going to be – it was awesome!
We had breakfast with all of the Swan’s players and as we were leaving I got a picture with Mike Pyke (Sydney Swans premiership player), holding the premiership cup. That was totally cool! Some of Dad’s cousins who live in Victoria drove four hours into Melbourne to see us, as I had never met them. We went to lunch and lost track of time so we had to run all the way back to our hotel as we were going to be late for the plane. We took a taxi to the airport and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. We got on the plane and flew back to Mackay.
What an experience...
What an amazing weekend and an awesome experience! It is something I will never forget. My Mum tells me that this is something that family legends are made of and that my grandchildren will talk of the day their grandad umpired on grand final day at the MCG.
When I got home I was interviewed by the local TV station. I was interviewed on ABC Radio and there was also a write up in the local paper before I left. My high school principal even put something in the school newsletter. Today was my first day back at school and everyone has been asking me about what it was like to umpire at the MCG on grand final day.
I umpire AFL just because I love it. I am a bit sad the season has finished but I am already looking forward to doing it again next year. I hope one day I will be one of the real umpires umpiring a grand final game at the MCG – I guess I just need to keep working hard and trying to improve myself – you just never know what might happen.