VETERAN Alberton Football League umpire Steve ‘Macca’ McNamara was honoured at the Korumburra Showgrounds on Saturday when he officiated in his 500th game.
The Korumburra-Bena Bulldogs and Tarwin Sharks reserves and senior sides formed a guard of honour as the respected umpire took to the ground for the milestone.
Steve’s love of footy began as a youngster playing junior and some senior football with Leongatha before a stint at Stony Creek and later at Korumburra.
After hanging the playing boots up, Steve was convinced to give umpiring a go by Jimmy Alger and he soon joined the Bass Valley Umpires Panel.
Steve still recalls his first game where ironically Jimmy was a fellow umpire on the day when they oversaw Phillip Island taking on Wonthaggi Blues in the thirds competition.
Now 500 games on, Steve says “stupidity” along with a great group of fellow umpires and football clubs has seen him stick at the role for so long.
“There are a really good group of people involved in umpiring. As much as people abuse us and carry on there are also a hell of a lot of good people involved in local football clubs,” he said.
“I have always enjoyed it – obviously it has its ups and down, but you just have to accept the downs as much as enjoying the ups.”
Over his 500 games, there have been many highlights, but two in particular stand-out for Steve.
“Umpiring the interleague with Matty Holmes at the MCG on the Queen’s Birthday in 2006 is definitely a memorable moment,” he said.
“Alberton and Mid Gippsland were drawn to play at the ‘G’ in a curtain raiser and the two panels had to provide two umpires, to be out there at the MCG was great.”
Umpiring his first senior grand final between the Wonthaggi Rovers and Phillip Island was also a career highlight.
Joining him for the occasion on Saturday were good mates and fellow umpires Chris Clements and Mat Holmes, who Steve had personally selected.
“I have been umpiring with Chris since I first started and we are pretty close mates,” Steve said.
“Holmesy is also a good mate and is responsible for keeping me going in the past few years.”
Steve says there have been many changes to the game over the years, some of which are proving difficult for umpires.
“I think the game is a lot harder to umpire because of the flooding tactics,” he said.
“Every time the ball goes on the ground there is a pack of players around it.”
The scrutiny of umpires particularly on television is also something which puts a lot of pressure on the umpires.
“If an umpire makes an error, it is replayed over and over again on TV,” he said.
“The mistake of a player is not played over and over.”
A humble Steve said he was overwhelmed by the reception he received from the players and spectators at Korumburra on Saturday.
“I really do thank the two clubs from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“I was really touched and I very much appreciated it.
“I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wife who has put up with me and my injuries over the years.”