SIX-time AFL grand final umpire Shaun Ryan says the 2017 decider rates as a career highlight.
The Warrnambool-raised Ryan said officiating the Adelaide-Richmond game was the ideal reward after coming out of retirement three years ago.
“I’ve been lucky most of the grand finals I’ve done have been some of the epic ones – the (2010) draw, ‘09 was close and ‘11 was close as well,” he said in the umpires’ change rooms in the bowels of the MCG post-game.
“But for me personally, this one takes the cake because to come back after three years off, be 42 and do a grand final, it’s just fantastic.
“I had so much fun, it was great. It felt really relaxed this time around. It was probably one I didn’t expect to get.”
Ryan, who retired in 2011 and spent three seasons away from the game, said he wanted to extend his career into next season.
“The plan at the start of the year was probably that this would be my last year but I really feel like the body is holding up well and I am umpiring well,” he said.
“I am really enjoying the young group and hopefully I can assist them to some degree and they can jump over the top of me.”
Ryan – the twin of Warrnambool Cup-winning horse trainer Patrick – juggles work as a barrister with his umpiring. He said having a passion for both made the long hours worthwhile.
“It can be a tricky balance,” Ryan said.
“It’s just about planning ahead and also it’s important to enjoy what you do.
“Once you enjoy what you do, it sort of gives you energy as opposed to taking energy away.
“I might have a big trial and be working 60 hours for the week and then other weeks I can work in my office doing preparation work and bring it back a bit.
“Once I knew I'd be doing finals, I started to ease up on work a bit, just to make sure I was fresh for the games.”
Ryan said Warrnambool export David Harris was an AFL umpire to watch.
“He’s still working his way through the ranks, but he’s a really solid umpire and I think it won’t be too long before we see him in some finals as well,” he said.