West Australian goal umpire Matt Laycock has called time on his distinguished career after umpiring 161 WAFL and 45 AFL matches. Laycock officiated his final game of football at the Swan Districts and West Perth WAFL league clash last weekend and looks back on his career with WA Football Commission Umpiring Pathway Manager Tim Priest.
What made you want to get involved in umpiring?
I received a flyer at school about a ‘Come and Try’ WAFL umpiring training event. I wanted to see what it was all about and give it a go.
At what age did you start umpiring?
I started goal umpiring at the age of 14 and then started field umpiring at Swan Districts Junior FC. It was in 2003 that I started umpiring in the WAFL competition. I’m now 30 years old and it may seem young to retire, but when I think about it I’ve been umpiring half my life.
When did you decide to focus on goal umpiring?
I was goal umpiring in the WAFL competition and had just progressed to league level while I was also field umpiring in the Talent Academy. I was advised to choose a preferred pathway and I was progressing well in goal umpiring so I thought that it was a good decision to head down that development pathway.
What is the most challenging skill of goal umpiring?
Maintaining concentration would have to be the ultimate challenge. There can be long stages in the game where you won’t have much play down your end, and then suddenly something will happen. You just can’t afford to switch off.
What is most enjoyable about umpiring?
You’re a part of the footy family, how are your family involved in the sport?
My brothers Jonathon and Benjamin started umpiring at Swan Districts Junior FC about two years after I started. Benjamin started out as a goal umpire and reached WAFL level before he changed to field umpiring. Ben has now umpired more than 70 WAFL league matches. Jonathon came through the Swan Districts system with field umpiring experience and made the transition to goal umpiring and now officiates in the WAFL. My brothers and I didn’t have our driver’s licenses while we were umpiring for the Swan District Junior FC, so mum and dad drove us to and from training and games. Mum started cooking soup for the Swans umpires after training and even though we no longer umpire at Swans she still cooks up batches every week. Mum has also volunteered at Swans Junior grand final days.
What is the best advice you could offer to umpires?
Make sure to self-asses every game and identify the area you need to work on. It is also important to be honest and work hard.
What words of encouragement do you have for aspiring umpires who are thinking about goal umpiring?
Just give it a go! It is a great way to be closely involved in the greatest game.
What are some highlights of your umpiring career?
There are definitely a few in the bank. My first AFL game was a very special moment for me. I have also loved umpiring the Western Derbies. I think my career highlight would have to be the Australia v Ireland International Rules Game in 2014, that was an exciting match!
What is the funniest incident you have experienced in a match or at training?
In my last season of AFL when I went out to initiate a score review and tripped over my own feet in the middle of the goal square while the camera was on me!
Can you name some of the best players you’ve seen shooting at goals?
Lance Franklin and Matthew Pavlich would have to be the best players I have witnessed. Steve Johnson was always a tough one – his skills are incredible.