A QUICK wit and a jolly attitude have guaranteed Robert “Sticks” Campbell’s longevity as an umpire.
The easygoing 65-year-old will officiate his 700th match for the Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association (WDFUA) this weekend.
Campbell, who has kept up with the ever-changing pace of the game for more than 30 years, credits his ability to laugh off the occasional remark from disgruntled players for his staying power.
He also says the mateship of the umpires’ association is unrivalled.
“You get a few players who think points are goals or the other way around,” Campbell, who has settled into goal umpiring, told The Standard this week.
“But you just grin and bear it. There’s no point being smart about it.”
Campbell, a life member of the WDFUA, is only the fourth person in the association’s history to notch up 700 games.
The dedicated officiator umpires cricket in the football off-season, having little time for a break.
“Football finishes then cricket starts. I only get a fortnight off,” he laughed.
“There’s no time for a holiday.”
The former ruckman played for South Warrnambool, South Rovers, Old Collegians and Merrivale in his local football career.
“I was just an average player,” he said.
“My shoulder dislocated three times in (what ended up being) my last game. I went over to the coach and told him I was finished.”
That was in 1976.
The following year, Campbell was running out with the whistle.
“I used to work for Telecom on Albert Street,” he said.
“Locky Eccles was working next door at McKenzie’s soft drinks and he said I should go up and umpire.
“I went up one night and the coach was Dougie Anderson and he said I would start in the centre.”
Campbell has since umpired 203 games as a central umpire, 64 on the boundary, 429 in goals and three on the interchange.
“I don’t know why people don’t want to umpire,” he said. “Once you walk in, you never want to leave.”
As well as the increasing pace, Campbell has also adapted to the introduction of four flags for the goal umpire’s use, compared with three when he started.
There are two flags to signal a goal, as well as behind flags on both posts.
The father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight has only had one season away from umpiring, to “refresh” his enthusiasm for the role.
“There are times when I wonder why I do it, but then I think, why not?” Campbell said.
“People say they don’t want to umpire because of the abuse.
“But I say get over it and get up here.”