Nothing — not even brawling West Coast and Sydney players — was going to stop WA umpire Dean Margetts from bouncing the first ball in an AFL match at Optus Stadium last Sunday.
Now, Margetts will be able to say he had the the first two centre bounces at WA’s new home of football when, in his 300th AFL match tonight, he starts the battle between Fremantle and Essendon.
It will come after soft ground in the centre of Optus Stadium meant his opening bounce to start the Eagles’ battle with the Swans was the only one for the match, as umpires were forced to throw the ball up.
But Margetts, 43, was not to be denied the glorious moment he had predicted to umpiring mates years earlier, and he made sure the players were well aware of that intention.
“I said to the players I didn’t care what they did to each other, I was bouncing the ball,” he said.
“I had the countdown clock going, I had Nic Naitanui pushing Zac Jones and I just said, ‘Boys, this ball is going up’. No one was going to steal my historical bounce ... it’s on my stats sheet for life.”
Margetts can laugh loudly now after cheating death two years ago when he was struck down by a mystery chest ailment that forced his flight from Melbourne to Perth to divert to Adelaide in a medical emergency.
He had a ruptured ulcer that caused a tear in his stomach and painful pressure in his chest cavity.
Margetts said his close shave meant little of the sledging umpires invariably confronted struck any nerves.
“I’ve been to the well and back, mate, give me your best shot,” he said. “It took me a fair while to reload and rebuild. But to come from where I was, when the doctor said he was going to have to rip me open right through from my sternum ... it’s really gratifying.”
Margetts, the WAFL and talent umpire manager, laughed at claims he was biased towards West Coast. “It’s amazing how myths get developed and go crazy in football,” he said.
Margetts said he had no plans to retire. He has umpired a combined 419 AFL and WAFL senior games.