McMahon’s milestone 500th celebrated with kids by his side

Matthew McMahon umpired his 500th football game with his daughter and son also taking to the field with him. Pictures: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

Racking up 500 umpired games over nearly three decades, Mooroolbark’s Matthew McMahon started his humble umpiring career as a teenager, something his daughter has now followed.

Stepping out onto the field for the 500th time donning the umpires green on Saturday 15 June, it was made even more special for McMahon as his daughter, 15 and son stepped out with him as both a field and goal umpire respectively.

The Eastern Football Netball League’s women’s veterans clash between Mooroolbark and Chirnside Park at Kiloran Reserve was selected as the game he’d umpire for the milestone so McMahon could share it with his daughter.

“That was fantastic. My daughter took up umpiring last year and she rekindled my interest to get back involved and to do a lot more,” he said.

“I could have done it a couple of weeks earlier, but I wanted to plan it to be with her, so I could do my 500th game with her. It means a lot more than just umpiring a game.”

Hitting their first milestone last year by umpiring a grand final together, McMahon said that and his 500th would always stick out as two of the best memories in his 26 years of umpiring.

Always a lover of sport, no matter the code, McMahon began umpiring in 1998 to help out his brother’s football team and to earn some pocket money.

When he could no longer play the game himself after having shoulder reconstruction surgeries, McMahon said umpiring allowed him to still enjoy the game he loved.

“I get paid to watch the greatest game on earth, AFL football, from the middle of the ground,” he said.

Throughout the years McMahon said “cultural shift has absolutely moved in the right direction”, providing a more inclusive environment, encouraging female participation and working to end the abuse of umpires.

“It’s definitely come a long way where the teams and clubs support the umpires more now. People talk about abuse but it’s certainly not there like it used to be,” he said.

“The clubs are a lot more respectful and a lot better with it these days maybe because there’s more education going around. My daughter’s 15 and I wouldn’t let her do it if it was something she was going to cop backlash from.”

McMahon said celebrating his 500th was a perfect example of players and clubs really getting behind the umpires, with the teams forming a guard of honour, holding up a banner for him to run through and balloons denoting 500.

“It’s just fantastic for them to recognise an umpire from a playing point of view and understand that the game’s not going to go ahead without umpires.”

While most of the time these days McMahon likes to umpire the veterans football, he has umpired games across all age groups.

“That’s just a great competition where, because I’ve been doing it for so long, you know all the players and there is mutual respect there. So I’ve done a few grand finals in that division, which has been exciting and really enjoyable.

“And being a local, I’ll be down at the shops and players from teams will bump into me and say hello and we’ll have a chat. There’s just this local sport inclusiveness in the area.”

Although still having a passion for the game and umpiring, McMahon said he was now really enjoying helping young people.

“With my daughter taking it up last year, I got involved in helping out with the juniors and I just enjoy helping the young kids coming through now as well. I know what it was like starting out and we didn’t have support people back then.

“And the more they get involved, one day I can retire.”

Despite having said he would retire after reaching 500 games, McMahon will still don the umpires greens for some time, even if it is just to be out on the field with his kids again.