Home » Celebrating David Rodan’s umpiring milestone

Celebrating David Rodan’s umpiring milestone

Celebrating David Rodan’s umpiring milestone

AFL umpiring this season has been subjected to more critical assessment than most years. A former Port Adelaide player has from his officiating role presented an image that only draws praise.

David Rodan rocks his iconic smile while signalling a goal. Image: AFL Photos.

DAVID RODAN kicked 86 goals – and a match-winning behind – in his 111 AFL games for Port Adelaide. He easily stood out, even at 173 centimetres, as a fan favourite.

That energy, from a seemingly endless reserve. His spirit, on the field and as an admired team-mate in the changerooms. He always seemed happy to be playing. And those moves with his fast-shuffling feet that took him all the way to television fame on Dancing With The Stars.

Now, each weekend Rodan is dwarfed by 15-metre goalposts at AFL grounds in Victoria – but he is standing even taller at a time when AFL umpiring needs a public relations win, regardless of league chief Andrew Dillon saying last week that match officiating is as “good as it has ever been”.

Almost 14 years since he sent a goal umpire darting to his right at the southern end of a rain-soaked Football Park to signal the game-winning score against West Coast in round 20, 2010, Rodan has reached his first significant milestone as an AFL umpire.

He stood his 100th match – all home-and-away games – in Friday night’s Collingwood-Essendon encounter at the MCG.

There was that very noticeable smile that greets every goal Rodan likes to acknowledge with much more than a forceful signal of his index fingers.

“I just love seeing a great goal kicked, so I give a nice little smile, nothing over the top,” says Rodan. “I know how hard they are to kick,” adds the midfielder who kicked 131 goals across 185 games with Richmond, Port Adelaide and Melbourne.

David Rodan celebrates a goal for Port Adelaide in 2009. Image: AFL Photos.

Former AFL field umpire Hayden Kennedy was spot on with summing up the impression Rodan made in 2015 when he first appeared among umpiring ranks. He noted: “David is going to bring a lot of character to goal umpiring.”

There is that confidence in Rodan’s calls with minimal reliance on score review.

“I make sure I am in the right position, then I can make the right calls … most times,” says Rodan. “I like to be decisive; I pride myself in my goal umpiring.”

The fans – 73 per cent, according to the latest league survey – are fine with Rodan’s colleagues going to score review. It is important to get the right decisions, they say, even if it comes down to relying on technology and holding up the game.

The Fijian-born Rodan left the AFL playing ranks in 2013, a year after being delisted by Port Adelaide, to finish his career as a top-grade player in the Northern Territory.

And then umpiring became an “interesting avenue” to stay in the game.

“I had played, I had coached a little and there was umpiring …,” says Rodan. “But I checked it out first; I would have felt a fraud preaching goal umpiring (without trying to take a direct path to the AFL on the back of his football record).

“I was not going to be a field or boundary umpire when it would mean running more than I did in my playing career. So, I went into the goals.”

David Rodan celebrated his 100th match as an umpire at the weekend. Image: AFL Photos.

One thing has not changed for Rodan since he has moved from the centre square to behind the goal square – he is still needing to find position around ruckmen. “And there are some big specimens these days (coming to the goal line to defend set shots),” says Rodan.

Rodan is the silver lining to the storm clouds that have engulfed AFL umpiring his season when the task of officiating games has become more challenging by in-season change to the interpretation of the toughest rule in  Australian football, holding-the-ball. 

And there is that seemingly impossible task of having four field umpires at each game carry the same read of contentious grey themes of “intent”, “prior opportunity” and “reasonable attempt” …

Rodan, who works to a very clearly defined set of rules on how scores are registered, has given AFL umpiring a much-needed image of inspiration and pride.

And if anyone needs a reminder on how tough the recent rule changes have made the work of a field umpire, look at the passage of play that set up Rodan’s match-winning score in the final 30 seconds at Football Park in 2010. He was fed the ball by Tom Logan, who had to dive at the feet of West Coast rival Scott Selwood … three years before the league introduced a rule punishing “forceful contact below the knees”.