LEONGATHA’S Matt Stevic has done it again.

He has been appointed to umpire an incredible 8th grand final including the last five in-a-row.

But the fact that Saturday’s grand finale, to such an eventful season, will itself be a history-making occasion in several ways, has not been lost on the former Gippsland Umpires Association graduate.

Speaking exclusively to the Sentinel-Times, Matt reflected on a huge year personally and for the community.

“I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this year’s AFL Grand Final at the Gabba. This year has been challenging in so many ways but also the most rewarding.

“My wife and I welcomed our first child, daughter, Hazel Rose into the world on the 23rd of March 2020, the same day the AFL season shut down.

“Almost seven months on, having moved to Queensland in early July with my wife and newborn, to get the opportunity to officiate in this weekend’s Grand Final is surreal.

“My wife has shown incredible support and love to allow me to do what I do. She’s my rock and along with our families back in Vitoria, they have been incredibly supportive of us in making the last-minute move.

“It should be a fantastic, tough Grand Final and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.”

The day will mark Matt’s 401st game was a top-flight umpire, a milestone that went almost unnoticed in the whirlwind final series.

But he’s not showing any signs of wavering.

“For as long as I am motivated and still have the discipline and energy that is required to be at the elite level, I hope my umpiring journey continues for a little while yet.”

Uniquely, he’ll be joined by the oldest player to officiate at an AFL Grand Final, Simon Meredith at 45 years of age, surely giving Matt at least another five years at the top. They will be partnered by first timer, Craig Fleer, likely to be the one the to take the opening bounce.

But simply being part of the achievement to actually finish a season under such unprecedented circumstances was not lost of Matt.

“I’m so proud of our entire AFL umpiring team in playing a small but important part in allowing the season to be completed.

“It’s going to be a year I’ll never forget,” said one of Leongatha’s greatest sporting sons.

THE AFL announced the appointments to the umpiring panel, for the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final between Richmond and the Geelong Cats, on Tuesday this week.

The big game is to be played at night for the first time, outside of Victoria for the first time and away for the MCG for the first time since 1991, the Brisbane Gabba this Saturday, October 24.

“Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and first-timer Craig Fleer have been selected as the field umpires with Robert Findlay named as the emergency.

“The 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final will see Stevic officiate his eighth Toyota AFL Grand Final, Meredith his fifth and Fleer his first.”

AFL Head of Umpiring Grant Williams congratulated each umpire after their selection was finalised on Monday afternoon.

“Matt, Simon and Craig have performed consistently across the entire season and fully deserve their selection in what promises to be a great Grand Final,” Williams said.

“I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate each boundary and goal umpire selected for the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final and thank every umpire who officiated AFL football this season.

“It has been a season like no other and I acknowledge and thank the commitment and professionalism from each umpire and their families.”

See below the career statistics of each umpire appointed to the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final, including the boundary and goal umpires.

Field Umpires: Matt Stevic (No.9) – debut 2004, games 400 AFL matches, 44 finals. All-Australian six times (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and grand finals in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Simon Meredith (No.21) – debut 2004, games 387, finals 36, grand finals in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017.

Craig Fleer (No.26) – debut2012, games 139, finals 4, first AFL grand final.

Emergency: Robert Findlay, debut 2009, games 254 and finals 8.

Boundary Umpires Michael Marantelli (games: 235, finals 24, grand finals: 3), Ian Burrows (games 318, finals 36, grand finals 8), Matthew Konetschka (games 187, finals 21, grand finals 2. Matthew Tomkins (games 209, finals 23, grand finals 3). Emergency Christopher Gordon, games 276, finals 29, grand finals 4).

Goal Umpires Matthew Dervan (first AFL Grand Final, Steven Piperno, emergency Steven Axon.

Stevic was born in November 1979 in Leongatha, Victoria. He made his debut umpiring his first match in the AFL in Round 1, 2004, between the Western Bulldogs and the West Coast Eagles at the Telstra Dome, and he has since umpired internationally.

He used to teach physical education, business management and geography at secondary schools, including Melbourne Grammar, Scotch College and Xavier College.

His first, alongside Brett Rosebury and Simon Meredith, was the 2012 AFL Grand Final.

Stevic studied applied science (sport coaching and administration) at Deakin University with a major in sport coaching.

Simon Meredith, born March 11, 1975 is the oldest player to officiate at an AFL Grand Final.