Not this little black duck!

Ive held down some pretty difficult and demanding jobs over the years. Ive done two seasons of cotton-chipping in 40-degree heat at Goondiwindi and Moree and I have and remain a youth worker where I help challenging young men and women back into housing and education. My job here at The Echo, which requires me to be an editor, journalist, photographer and a graphic artist, may seem tricky, but they all pale in comparison to cricket umpiring.

I admit it was a little irksome to have spotters point out castor oil weeds which I hadnt chipped out, but I always went back and cleared the offending plant. Sleeping in a chair outside a willful clients room to discourage them from escaping for a night of drinking and abuse, thats exhausting. Trying to keep up with the enormous scope of sport here in Lismore, Ballina, Casino, Kyogle and Nimbin, virtually impossible. But umpiring, that takes a very special sort of person and Im not one of those people.

Truly I cannot think of a job, apart from politics, where no matter how well considered, how well prepared and how right you are, you still get abused for being wrong. I often wish that we had a video replay for local games so my decisions could be vindicated. I could just point them up to the big screen and I wouldnt have to put up with all the verbal abuse. But there is no lasting evidence and all you can rely on is your own cast-iron belief in the correctness of your decisions. It takes a lot of self belief and I just dont have that level of self assurance. And more importantly, I dont have the gravitas to cite offending players and their captains, and it needs doing.

That said, there are a few good men out there umpiring locally who have the intestinal fortitude to cite the bullies and they have my lasting respect. How they stay calm and restrict what must be an overwhelming desire to rocket back some abuse of their own is beyond me. Truly, they can listen to the bluest ridicule from a bowler and respond by telling him he can hold his own hat next over. Thats it.

I always did my best when a player made an error, lets say dropped a simple catch. I didnt run up to them yelling, thats appalling, youre a f%@king joke and I wish I could say the same for them. I even defended players from opponents who laughed at such missed chances, but did their captains defend me? Just once in a dozen instances. On a state and international level this kind of rubbish is being stamped out and that will trickle down to us sooner or later.

The best umpires seem to be former police or corrective service officers; theyre used to expletives from miscreants. Furthermore, youd have to be holding a gun to their heads to phase them. They amaze me; they are so unflappable and worth a wage rate three to four times what theyre paid.

Im hoping, of course, that these blokes, with the help of an independent and determined judiciary, can stamp out the abuse. Having umpires who are willing to be bullied into decisions just favours the nasty. Umpires have a right to enjoy the game as well. They are given a very onerous job and they deserve the respect of players and the protection of the captains. When that culture exists in the local competition it will be fine day.

But until that day dawns, I shall don the penguin suit and pick up the counter no more. Yes, Im a two-time quitter, but its just not worth the grief.

But anyway, enough about cricket, lets talk about the new nuclear power stations the Coalition wants to build somewhere around here. Someone will have to lie down in front of the bulldozers, and at least now my schedules free.


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