Riddell Umpires Greatest Success Story Calls It A Day.

Justin Bennison PhotoJustin Bennison, arguably Riddell Umpires greatest success story has called an end to his illustrious 10 year AFL career. Justin umpired his 205th and final game in the 2013 round 23 match between North Melbourne and Collingwood.


Justin started as a boundary umpire at the Riddell Umpires in 1997. He came from an athletics background competing at state level. He was introduced to umpiring by a friend that suggested he could make himself some money umpiring rather than running cross country during the winter months. At the age of 16, this appealed to Justin so football and Boundary umpiring became his passion.

 

Justin umpired a total of 55 games at the Riddell Umpires between 1997 and 1999. It didn’t take Justin long to learn the ropes and rise to success. He umpired his first RDFL senior grand final in 1998 and then followed it up in 1999 umpiring the BFL senior grand final.


In the year 2000, Justin joined the VFL panel. A couple of injury prone years put the brakes on his career ever so slightly, but he fought back and umpired the 2002 TAC cup grand final. He then went one step better and won himself a spot in the 2003 VFL senior grand final.


Justin’s success at the VFL led to him being promoted to the AFL panel in 2004. He umpired 22 games in his final year including his 200th game in round 18 in the match between Essendon and Hawthorn. Justin umpired 9 finals in his time at the AFL including the 2007 AFL grand final between Geelong and Port Adelaide. When asked about the 2007 grand final he said “Only your wedding day and the birth of your children surpasses the moment when that phone call comes telling you that you have been appointed to the grand final”.
According to the AFLUA website when Justin was pushed to make a comment about his career, he states “I do it for the challenge to get better. To be inside the fence of the best game in the world, for the adrenaline rush in keeping pace with the game. I love the camaraderie out on the ground, to work hard with your team mates to deliver what is required by our coaches. To come off the ground and know you have given your best”. He also dreamt of one more Grand Final, but unfortunately it was not to be after finishing the 2013 season in round 23.
Justin now has a young family, and had the opportunity to enhance his off field career in the banking industry. This opportunity is in the Far North Queensland destination of Townsville, which meant he could no longer commit to an AFL career. When asked about the move  he said “the opportunity to enhance my career was far too great to let pass” He said he hopes be able to have some influence in AFL as an emerging sport in the rugby stranglehold up in Townsville.


Justin will be remembered by those at the AFL as someone that let his performances do the talking. A gentle giant that always sought feedback from his coaches, worked hard on the training track and even harder at home and someone that always tried to get the best out of himself.


From everyone at the Riddell Umpires, we would like to congratulate Justin on an amazing career. You have done yourself and everyone at the Riddell Umpires proud. Now that a spot of the AFL list is available, we hope that our next up and coming star Jordan Andrews can get onto the AFL list and follow in your footsteps.