Baldwin to umpire 200th

NEAFL umpire, Jason Baldwin, will umpire his 200th match this weekend.

NEAFL umpire, Jason Baldwin, will travel back to where his umpiring career started as he notches up his 200th match on Saturday night.

Baldwin will be umpiring the Thunder vs. Gold Coast SUNS reserves match in Darwin, where he began umpiring almost two decades ago.

Playing for the Wanderers and umpiring on the side, Baldwin chose to go down the officiating path, and it has definitely paid off.

After relocating to Queensland, Baldwin made it onto the AFL umpires list and officiated 19 games at the elite level over 2002-03.

Baldwin said he was excited to be going back to the NT for such a major milestone.

“It’s a nice touch that I’ll do my 200th up there. I’ve got some family and friends popping up to the game,” he said.

“I’m feeling good about it.”.

Even after such a long career, Baldwin said he was feeling a bit nervous in the lead-up to the match.

“Thunder home games are quite big occasions as they’re one of the most well supported clubs,” he said.

“Even now talking about it now, I’m a bit toey about it.

“When you’re home you can do your own thing and obviously going away, the preparation’s a little bit different.”

After finishing at AFL level, Baldwin had a five-year break from umpiring, before being lured back in by the camaraderie of the umpiring group and some unfinished business.

“A lot of my friends are umpires so I had a bit of pressure from a few of those guys to get back into it and there some goals to achieve that I didn’t quite achieve,” he said.

“Basically the mateship and hanging out with my mates and umpiring footy, I just missed it.”

In his long career, Baldwin has umpired through many changes to Aussie Rules and said maintaining consistency was one of the greatest challenges of being an umpire.

“There are things that the rules committee bring in that we have to implement and sometimes the public don’t want certain free kicks, but we have to implement them,” he said.

“That’s the biggest thing, players get frustrated at things we have to pay.”

Baldwin said developing a strong rapport with players was key to navigating that difficulty.

“I think it’s just the rapport you have with players and if you can build up some sort of relationship.”

“There’s a handful in each club that you get along with better than others but every club, to their credit, has a pretty good respectful bunch of players, to be honest.”

“When I was doing AFL, Michael Voss was probably one of the best, along with Chris Judd.”

Over his career, Baldwin said the first AFL match he umpired still rings clearly in his mind.

“I grew up as a Carlton supporter and my first game was Carlton and Melbourne at Etihad,” he said.

“It was Anthony Koutoufides’ first game back from a knee injury and it was packed.

“Being a lifelong Carlton supporter, and to have my first game involving them was pretty memorable.”

As well as the AFL, Baldwin has left a major legacy on the Queensland umpiring scene, having been named Queensland Umpire of the Year three times, as well as umpiring six State League grand finals, between 1999 and 2012.

AFL/NEAFL Umpires coach, Cameron Nash, said Baldwin’s inclusion in so many grand finals was testament to his consistency over such a long time.

For Jason to umpire his first state league grand final in 1999 and to do his sixth last year shows how consistent an umpire Jason is,” Nash said.

“Jason is one of the best bouncers on the list and it is extremely rare for him to have a poor game decision-wise.

“The way Jason goes about his umpiring on match day is first class and is a great example to our younger umpires. 

“On top of being a great bouncer and decision maker Jason is a fantastic communicator on the field and has a great rapport with players and coaches alike.”

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