WARRNAMBOOL football umpire Jamie Lake will officiate his 600th game this weekend, almost eight years after his career came into question.
Lake will take charge of the Koroit-Warrnambool Hampden league match beside good friends Casey O’Keefe and Cory Mahoney as he chalks up a milestone he was uncertain he would reach. The 40-year-old said being a central umpire for his first senior grand final — the Warrnambool and District league decider in 2004 — was a career highlight.
But taking charge for the same match 12 months later was more satisfying because of the circumstances the achievement came in.
“Probably more satisfying was the 2005 one because I was told I would never do another one,” he said.
“One of my coaches said I may never do another one. I’ve had this discussion with that coach — who I won’t name — and I think I’ve proven them wrong.”
The chat, which Lake has long remembered, came as he prepared himself in the umpires’ rooms for the ’04 decider. “At that stage, 2004, I would’ve been 32, not putting in the training as I probably should’ve, thought I’d be a flash in the pan.
“When your coach tells you that, it spurs you on to do bigger things. I’m one of those blokes that has to do a fair bit of training to keep myself fit. I took it on board and did a fairly decent pre-season, which I have ever since, and as my resume goes on from 2004 it probably shows the dividends.”
Lake has since become one of Warrnambool’s most decorated football umpires.
He started boundary umpiring as a 14-year-old in 1986 and progressed to the central ranks in 1993.
His WDFNL and HFNL senior debuts followed in the following two years.
Lake has umpired seven grand finals — three WDFNL and four HFNL — in eight years, including taking the whistle on the biggest day of the season for the past five years. Interleague, Australian country championships and AFL international cup duties also feature on an impressive resume.
Lake’s 599 games include 473 as a central umpire, 125 running the boundary and one as a goal umpire, and he has also served time umpiring at Geelong. Off the field he is a long-term member on the Warrnambool District Football Umpires’ Association committee and is currently chairman.
Lake said he wanted to remain umpiring until he could officiate with his eight-year-old daughter Gemma, who has shown interest in picking up a whistle.
He said umpire abuse from players and spectators had dropped in recent years.
“When you first start out as a young bloke, you seem to hear a lot of that stuff, sometimes you’ll take it to heart as a young fella,” he said. “As the years go by and a bit more experience comes into it, it’s like water off a duck’s back, you learn how to handle that sort of stuff.”