WARRNAMBOOL umpire Casey O’Keefe can pinpoint two reasons why he’ll take centre stage on Hampden league grand final day at Reid Oval tomorrow.
The first is the exodus of talent from the Warrnambool umpires’ ranks to the VFL and the AFL, which has opened doors he thought were closed.
The second, and more pertinently, is O’Keefe is of clearer mind than what he has been for years.
O’Keefe, 39, is one of three Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association (wdfua) whistle blowers who will take charge of the Koroit-Warrnambool blockbuster.
He will join boundary umpire Lachlan Rooke and goal umpire Pat Nolan.
Colac and Hamilton association umpires will fill the remaining roles.
O’Keefe, who will officiate his fifth Hampden league senior grand final and 10th overall, said he had been in “a really good headspace” this season.
“What held me back through other years is where my head has been at,” he said.
“With work and umpiring and fitness and my head being really good, I’ve umpired better than I have in past years.
“This year, with the way things have panned out, it’s been a really good experience.”
O’Keefe said the departures of young umpires Travis and Robert Monk and David Harris to Melbourne had paved the way for his rise to the top job.
He was appreciative of the feedback from WDFUA coach Dede Friebe and said he was the fittest he had been in years.
His training regime in the summer included pounding 50 kilometres of pavement each week while he clocked a personal best 40.16 minutes in the Surf ’T’ Surf.
Nolan, 59, will stand in goals on Hampden league grand final day for a second time.
He hoped the Saints and Blues’ key forwards made his job easy by kicking straight.
“The hardest ones are set kicks 10 metres out and the ball sprays,” he said.
Rooke, 18, is preparing for his first Hampden league grand final, having officiated at two Warrnambool and District league deciders.
“It was one of the aims at the start of the season to progress to the Hampden league,” he said.