AFTER umpiring 10 AFL finals Leongatha’s Matt Stevic finally realised his dream of officiating on that one day in September when he took to the hallowed turf of the MCG on Saturday.
The field umpire who made his AFL debut back in 2004 is now in his ninth season of AFL umpiring after first picking up the whistle when he was 12 years old.
Stevic has come a long way since first running the boundary with friend Dean Hillis; as 12 year-olds they were too small to take a whole boundary side on their own so they shared half each.
From there Stevic moved on to field umpiring in the Under 15s competition before slowly making his way up through the competition.
After stating out with the West Gippsland Umpires Association which look after the local leagues in South Gippsland, at the age of 18 Stevic was invited to umpire with the VFL.
After five years of officiating the TAC Cup, followed by the VFL for another five years, the invite to try out for the AFL finally came and from there he hasn’t looked back.
Speaking with the Sentinel-Times in May this year Stevic said to umpire an AFL Grand Final had always been a dream for him.
“It’s always been a goal,” he said.
“I have umpired for 20 years now and to finish fourth last year, you were one away from being in the three,” he said.
Stevic was one of four umpires to make their grand final debut during the Hawthorn versus Sydney clash on Saturday.
He joined fellow field umpire Simon Meredith, boundary umpire Rob Haala and the first female to participate in a grand final, goal umpire Chelsea Roffey.
Aside from a free kick for deliberate out-of-bounds call during the second quarter, Stevic remained uncharacteristically uncontroversial for the majority of the nail-biting match.
Even social media, which usually goes into overdrive when the local umpire is in charge of the whistle, remained relatively quiet, perhaps proof even his toughest critics were impressed with his performance.
President of the Gippsland Umpires Association Shane Morgan where Stevic first started his umpiring career described Stevic as a role model for up and coming umpires.
“We are very proud of Matt,” Mr Morgan said.
“He has worked really hard to get where he is today over the years.”
Mr Morgan said Stevic is one of the association’s “favourite boys”. Setvic’s picture and umpire’s jumper are proudly displayed in the association’s rooms.
“Matt is a role model; his name is always mentioned when we have any special dinners or presentation nights,” he said.
“It is always mentioned how someone as young as Matt was when he joined the association, can go on to achieve great things if you work really hard at it.”