Richard Cornish in action

Are You Blind Ump?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

It’s a common phrase that umpires hear from the crowd however for one umpire the response can be “legally yes”.

Richard Cornish, 24, is a goal umpire in the Black Diamond AFL on the New South Wales’ Central Coast & Newcastle areas. Richard was born with gentile glaucoma which has resulted in being declared as legally blind with 25% vision remaining in his left eye and only being able to tell if a light is on or off in his right eye.

Richard had already been umpiring (both field and goal) for 5 years when in 2005 his eyesight worsened to the state it is today. This resulted in him having to sit the 2005 season on the sidelines. However his determination was not to give up and walk away but to overcome the barrier and return behind the posts.

After speaking with other senior umpires in the Newcastle Central Coast Umpires Association (NCCUA) an idea was floated that if Richard couldn’t see past his 50m arc could the other goal umpire direct him through a UHF Radio?

During the 2006 pre-season trial games Richard trialled the UHF Radios with the other goal umpire providing him with a running commentary of the game.  When a score was occurring at the opposite end of the ground the other goal umpire would provide commentary on what the score was and to direct him through the flag waving process to ensure it was in time.  During these pre-season trial games Richard also ensured there was a person behind him, just in case. 

While there was the occasional glitch the process worked and Richard was appointed as a Goal Umpire in round 1 of the 2006 Black Diamond AFL season. Richard's 2006 season was cut short when a knee injury ruled him out for the majority of the season. However, in 2007 Richard returned back behind the goals, again with the UHF radios.  As a testament to his determination to not only return behind the goals but to become the best he could, he was appointed to the 2007 1st Grade Grand Final.

Richard then followed that up by being appointed to goal umpire the 2008, 2009 & 2010 1st Grade Grand Finals proving that the experiment with UHF radios were a success. Fellow umpires and officials who saw how it worked commented that you wouldn’t be able to tell that Richard couldn’t see past the 50m arc.

“People would comment that you couldn’t tell that I was unable to see past the 50m arc,” Richard said.

“It certainly helped me through a tough time when I had to make so many changes in my personal life to be able to keep on umpiring,” Richard explained.

In 2011 Richard had to sit out the season as the funding wasn’t available to purchase new radios. However the money was raised with thanks to the AFL Umpires Association and the Sydney Swans Football Club and Richard has now returned in 2012 with new radios and the goal of again umpiring on the final day of the season.

Richard expressed his thanks to everyone who has helped him remain involved in umpiring.

“My thanks goes out to the AFL Umpires Association and the Sydney Swans Football Club for the donation of prizes.  Also to the members of the Newcastle Central Coast Umpires Association and other people who bought tickets. The biggest thanks however goes out to the NCCUA and to my fellow goal umpires who embraced the idea of the radios to keep me umpiring and for continuing to support me in this respect,” he said.

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Bruce Davies, 17-05-12 18:08:
Great story and determination to enjoy a sport that yo love doing. Keepit up and I hope you continue to umpire for many years...!
John Sullivan, 17-05-12 20:38:
It has been a pleasure to umpire with Richard and be a part of his career as a goal umpire in our league, his dedication and commitment are testament to the position he holds today in our association and that is as umpires coach, well done mate I look forward to umpiring with you for as long as I am able.
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