Originally written by IAN LEWIS
CASTERTON-BASED goal umpire John Donegan reached a significant milestone at the weekend when he officiated in the Hamilton Junior Football Association preliminary final.
It was Donegan’s 800th game in the goal square and there is no sign of him hanging up the flags just yet.
“We do about 25 games a season, so to reach 1000 games I have a few years to go,” he said.
While the 800-game milestone is a significant feat, Donegan passed it off as just another game.
“There is a stack of people in Hamilton who have done more than 800 games; off the top of my head I know of at least two, Ryan Jacobson has done more than 1000 and Craig McAllister has just done 900, so there is two I can think of immediately. There is certainly more than me”
It all started for Donegan in Frankston back in 1978 where he umpired more than 150 games in the local southern umpires group in Frankston, but he didn’t count them when he worked out how many games he has actually covered.
If he included those 150 games, he would be on his 950th tomorrow with just two seasons left to reach the ultimate 1000 games.
He began umpiring in the Western Border Football league when he arrived in Casterton in 1984, and during the next 37 years he officiated in all grades of football in the area from under-14s to seniors.
“I never did field umpiring,” he said. “I have been a goal umpire in every one of those 800 games.
“I did some field umpiring at school but that’s all. I think the last time I did field umpiring was in 1973, when I was teaching at a school in Melbourne.
When asked about some of the better players he had seen in WBFL, Donegan said he would not have a clue.
“I don’t really remember names; when you are goal umpiring you don’t know the footballers very much. You just do your job and you are all over the place doing seniors, reserves and under-18s and you don’t get to umpire the same teams terribly often, so I don’t have many memories of footballers, they are just numbers to me.
“And you often have no idea who kicked goals or played well on the forward line because they are running at you when they deliver the ball, so it is hard to see who they are.”
He has officiated in a number of games where scoreboard errors have created some drama on and off the field. He said mostly it was caused by mistakes by the scoreboard attendants, but they are soon corrected when the goal umpires meet at the end of each quarter and correct the scoreboards.
“We had one of them this year during the Hamilton v Hamilton Imperials game. No-one knew what was going on until the goal umpires corrected the scoreboard.
“The hardest decisions goal umpires have to make, I believe, are when you have to make a decision whether a ball is out of bounds or a point.
“You have to run across the goals to adjudicate and if you are ever going to make a mistake, that is when the mistake will be made,” he said.
Donegan said players had no idea when balls flew over the top of the goal posts.
“It is your individual opinion and the players wouldn’t really know. They (players) often talk about that and I ask them ‘where are your physics, haven’t you heard of parallax error? And that shuts them up because they mustn’t know what I am talking about.”
But, he was pleased to see a number of young umpires start this season and hoped more would follow suit.