My Michelle Esperanza-Lee
It was 12 years ago. A teenage boy is assigned to be the umpire in an underage football match. That is all Andrew Stephens’ remembers of that day – his first as an umpire.
Fast forward to Thursday night when Stephens will walk onto The Gabba to make his AFL umpiring debut in the Brisbane Lions vs. Richmond match – a game he will always remember.
But forgetting the start of his humble beginnings is merely a testimony to Stephens’ vast experience on the field, from the AFL Brisbane Juniors to the NEAFL.
Stephens finally joined the ranks of the senior AFL umpiring panel for 2014. A case of third time’s the charm as he had gone through the rigours of two AFL trials before.
Well, Lady Luck has always smiled kindly upon Stephens, who recalls having no “horror stories” while officiating.
“I’m always focused on the game and my goal, which is to make sure the game is fair, so choking is not an option,” he said.
Wearing the confidence that stems from his experience and love of footy, the four-time Queensland Umpire of the Year is excited to start this new chapter of his AFL umpiring life.
“I look forward to the new opportunities the upcoming matches will bring and am just so excited to get on the ground. This is incredibly rewarding.”
If it seems like there is an ounce of anxiousness on his face on Thursday, it will only be the minute before his feet touches the field.
“I’m not worried about choking. Once I get on the ground, all my nerves disappear. I love the game and umpiring it allows me to have the best seats in the house so I’ll be too excited to be nervous,” Stephens explained.
After all, his pre-game ritual is simple: to relax. For the next two days, Stephens will be laying low to conserve his excitement for Thursday night.
Catch Stephens’ first game this Thursday night at The Gabba.