By: Daniel Cencic
Years of commitment, passion and hard-work have come to fruition for 23-year-old boundary umpire Damien Main.
The North Ringwood local, who was last week promoted onto the AFL umpires’ senior list, had seen a steady rise since first taking up umpiring in the Eastern Football League back in 2008.
Main’s rise saw him officiate in two VFL grand finals across the past two seasons and a handful of AFL matches in season 2017. But despite his success, the news came as a shock.
“I could barely talk when I got the call,” Main said.
“I couldn’t put a sentence together. I was a bit confident given the fact that I did do a few AFL games this year and there was a couple of retirements in Victoria, so I knew there were a couple of spots, but I still didn’t know for sure.”
PICTURE: Victorian Football League/AFL Victoria
Main recalls the moment almost a decade ago when he was convinced by a teammate to have a run with the EFL umpires.
“I was playing footy for North Ringwood and one of my mates did it (umpiring) as well,” he said.
“He was one of the fittest in our team (and) I spoke to him about it and he said ‘why don’t you come down?’.
“I went down, and I was really enjoying it. I think it helped my footy as well because I definitely gained a lot of fitness.
“It’s very character-building where there’s a few rowdy supporters who really love their local footy, so I really enjoyed it.
“When I came down, I was a little pudgy kid, so it was a bit of a shock to my body when I was running 10-15 kilometres every weekend.”
The VFL came calling for Main after five years of umpiring in the EFL.
VFL finals aplenty and a handful of AFL games later, and the rest is history.
“My last year in the EFL was in 2012 – I made it to the VFL in 2013 so I spent a year on the development list,” he said.
“I didn’t manage to break into finals that year (but) the next year I got onto the senior list.
“I wasn’t one of the better umpires up there – it was sort of only last year I hit my straps a bit more and managed to really work on my throw and get that really strong and I did a lot of work on my running to keep up with the quicker guys.
“That really helped to get to the (VFL) grand final last year.
“This year I managed to fill in for a few AFL games to cover injuries (and) that really helped my chances to get onto the AFL list full-time.”
Officiating in two VFL grand finals are experiences Main remembers fondly, with unique backstories to each decider adding to the spectacle.
“The last two years were amazing – (2016) was the Footscray one which was an amazing story, and this year was the Richmond-Port Melbourne game where Port came back late in the last quarter and Richmond had a shot after the siren to win it,” he said.
“It was very intense, very exciting and amazing to be a part of something like that.”
The newly-promoted AFL umpire, who grew up a passionate Essendon supporter, plies his craft five days a week working in an accounting firm.
“They (work) have been very good, and I spoke to them straight after (receiving the news) and they’ve been very accommodating in terms of flexibility,” Main said.
The ethos leading into 2018 as Main looks to carve out a long, fruitful career in the topflight is simple.
“I’m really excited to get down there (but) the main thing is to get myself at the right fitness level to get through all the testings,” he said.
“I’m going to focus on (2018) – I’m not going to worry about the future too much – I’m just going to try and live in the moment.”