By Sam Watson

LEONGATHA and District Cricket Assoc. umpire Michael Heenan umpired his 500th game of cricket on Saturday.

The Inverloch local travelled to Bass where he umpired the B2 clash between Kilcunda Bass and Leongatha Imperials.

The story behind his journey to 500 games behind the stumps is a pretty interesting one.

Heenan played cricket for Nilma until he was about 24, but when got married, he stopped playing for a few years.

He and wife, Christine had two kids, James and Christopher and moved to Keysborough.

James and Christopher eventually started playing local cricket and when they saw some of the blokes running around the field in C and D Grade, they told their Dad he better make a comeback.

So, he went back to play and then the moment that inspired him to become an umpire happened.

His side was getting smashed all over the park but when an opposition batsman nicked it straight to the keeper, they finally got a breakthrough, or so they thought.

The umpire, who also played for the opposition, didn’t raise his finger and let his teammate continue to bat.

Heenan said the nick was so loud, you could’ve heard it if the match was in Wonthaggi and you were in Inverloch.

After the game, Heenan was still fuming about the controversy and by sheer coincidence he saw an advertisement in the local paper for umpiring classes over winter.

So, his wife told him to stop whinging about umpires and go and do the classes and off he went.

For six weeks, he attended Holmesglen for the classes, and he was one of 15 out of about 50 people that got the nod to become an umpire on the Victorian Cricket Association panel.

That was back in 1990 and his first game was at St Kilda in the fourths just across the road from Junction Oval.

Over a ten-year span, Heenan moved from umpiring the fourths into the seconds but when he decided to retire from his local government job, he relocated to South Gippsland.

When he relocated, he briefly stopped umpiring but then a lunchtime indoor cricket game with a piece of wood sparked a conversation about his umpiring career.

Later that day he got a phone call from the LDCA and was asked to join their umpiring ranks and he’s never looked back since.

Christine passed away in 2014 and Heenan decided he would put his hand up to umpire representative and junior cricket on Sundays.

Over his career, he’s umpired in the VCA, the LDCA, the Gippsland Cricket League and numerous other representative cricket matches.

One year he umpired day one of a game on Saturday, had Sunday off, then umpired Monday through to Friday for country week and then returned on Saturday for day two.

“That was a big week,” Heenan said.

Another day at the Junction Oval, he was forced to stop play because fire trucks on their way to bush fires in the Dandenong’s made it too loud to hear anything.

“It was about 100 degrees in the shade that day, thank God they don’t play in that weather anymore.”

He’s also umpired some matches featuring big names like Merv Hughes, Damien Fleming and Simon O’Donnell.

Even after 30 years and 500 games of umpiring, Heenan is still loving every moment behind the stumps.

Heenan was received some positive feedback from players on Saturday, to which he responded, “I just about know what do after 30 years.”

Heenan still keeps fit and he said as long as he keeps doing an alright job, he’ll keep umpiring for a while yet.