I was recently asked to sit down with a long-standing umpiring colleague, and one of my closest friends – Cyrus Wong – to get a feel for his time at the VFL as he notched up game 100 recently at Trevor Barker Beach Oval.
My earliest memory of Cyrus comes from umpiring in a junior interleague carnival at Bulleen Park. I remember it being not only the first time I’d ever seen an Asian goal umpire – but also the first time I’d ever met anyone named Cyrus!
His notoriety around the Diamond Valley Football League (as it was then known) was almost instantaneous – not only for the diversity of his cultural background – but also for his ability as a first-year umpire.
Cyrus only spent two seasons at the DVFL before being sent to the VFL and he has never looked back!
JF: When did you start umpiring footy, and why did you start?
CW: I started in 2006. At Diamond Valley Athletics Club, Kim Miles, who was in my training group, always tried to recruit umpires from athletics, so, loving footy but not wanting to play, I took up her offer.
JF: What is the most memorable moment in your umpiring career?
CW: Umpiring the 2012 TAC Cup Grand Final and adjudicating the golden point which Jack MacRae kicked to win it for Oakleigh. That day I was with Jack Edwards, whom I’d umpired with in the Diamond Valley, and Tim Carlos, who remains a close friend.
Also, I like to see how players from that day are progressing – the likes of MacRae, Tim Membrey, Nick Graham, Jamie McMillan and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
Any chance to be on Etihad Stadium or the MCG, in fact, has been memorable
JF: What made you choose goal umpiring over the other disciplines?
CW: Kim Miles and I were both sprinters and, although she herself boundary umpired locally and recruited others to boundary umpire from the club, I felt that my sprinting background and lack of endurance would make me more suited to the goals.
JF: How have things changed since you’ve been at the VFL?
CW: There are way more umpires because there is a lot more footy to officiate, such as the VFL Women’s competition. Also, after the amalgamation of the AFL Reserves and the old VFL in the late 1990’s, I’ve seen AFL clubs start their own VFL sides and I wouldn’t be surprised if we came full circle before too long.
One other thing – something the young’uns will find hard to believe – it that the AFL umpires used to train with us at Victoria Park and I think that it’s detrimental to both parties that this Is no longer the case. As a developing umpire, I found it extremely valuable to have AFL umpires there every week from whom I could get feedback and answers to any questions I had.
JF: What is one piece of advice you would give to umpires that might be in their first season, or who are relatively new to the list?
CW: It’s very hard to limit my response to just one thing, but I’ll try to keep it brief!
Not just for goal umpires, I’d say be clear within yourself what you want to achieve and set your mind firmly to those goals, not letting anything get in your way. You’ll get plenty of kicks up the backside, so be resilient – and patient. Things worth doing take time.
At the same time, celebrate the little wins you have along the way, but never get ahead of yourself. Do whatever it takes, get the very best out of yourself and – though clichéd – enjoy what you do and appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given to umpire at this level.
For a shortarse like me, it’s not every day, for example, I get to stand next to people like Mason Cox or Jason Holmes, who are 7 feet tall!
It was a welcome chat to have with Cyrus, whom I believe is a real testament to the hard work and focus he mentioned in the interview. As someone I have looked up to, particularly when I made the decision to take up goal umpiring, he has always provided calm and level-headed advice and been able to render my thinking into a different form when things weren’t going so well.
He also touched on some personal achievements, such as maintaining his performance for long enough to make it to game 100 and also the amount his fitness has improved over time, as things he holds dear when he thinks about his umpiring journey.
For me, umpiring has always been a place that’s full of mates – people you just really enjoy being around and learning from. Cyrus holds the invaluable characteristic of loyalty as a colleague and a friend, and I will definitely have being part of his panel on his 100th VFL game as part of my memorable umpiring moments for years to come.
Congratulations, Cyrus Wong on 100 VFL Games!
– Josh Forner