AFL field umpire Curtis Deboy has seen his fair share of action on the field but his Christian faith has kept his head in the game and his eyes on the bigger picture.
Why did you choose to become an umpire and when did you start?
I started umpiring when I was 14 years old. I loved footy as a kid and wanted to earn some money during school. It was hard to start with, but I learned to love it very quickly.
Is there much training involved for AFL umpires?
We train 11 months of the year (and rest in October). We have two sessions together each week, but also train individually most other days. In summer, I will normally run five times per week with some other sessions thrown in such as swimming or cycling.
How do you prepare yourself before a game?
Before a game, I like to stay calm by praying and reading some of my favourite Bible verses. It reminds me that football is just a game, and I’m very fortunate to do what I do.
Is there a particular passage from the Bible that you read pre-game?
Yep, the same three every game:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Can you describe what it is like out on the field during a big contest?
It is incredibly exciting! I love the roar of the crowd and the responsibility of performing my job well in a big moment. The pressure is enjoyable. I have many amazing memories from umpiring—from brilliant goals and great marks to close games and everything in between. Nothing beats a game like Anzac Day or a final.
What is the relationship like between umpires and players?
It varies from player to player. Everybody is different. Some like to talk more, some don’t say anything. Mostly, they are respectful. Communicating with players is a great part of umpiring.
How do you handle challenges from the crowd?
To be honest, the bigger the crowd, the more exciting! When 90,000 people yell, you can’t hear anything but a roar, so it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s part of the job and we just focus on the decisions we’re making rather than what the supporters think. Their job is to be passionate, ours is to umpire the game and stay calm.
Do you have an AFL team that you follow?
Honestly, no, I don’t follow a team. When I started umpiring as a kid, I realised I wanted to make the AFL, so I cut ties with any team I may have supported—I just love footy and I don’t care who wins.