Sully Reaches 1,000 Match Milestone

This Saturday and Feighan Oval, Warners Bay, Black Diamond AFL & Newcastle Central Coast Umpires Association (NCCUA) Life Member, John Sullivan will umpire his 1000th AFL match in the Hunter & Central Coast Regions. That is no typo, ONE THOUSAND total matches in the Black Diamond AFL, Newcastle AFL and AFL Hunter Juniors.

There is nothing this man, affectionately known as Sully, hasn’t done in local umpiring. After commencing as a Field umpire, Sullivan moved into Goal Umpiring in his latter years.

Over his lengthy umpiring career the 71 year old has umpired 530 Newcastle AFL (NAFL) Matches, including a whopping 10 NAFL First Grade Grand Finals (5 of these as a Field Umpire). He has also officiated in 409 Black Diamond AFL Matches with 9 Black Diamond Cup (First Grade) Grand Finals and 4 lower grades Grand Finals. Throw into the mix, 59 AFL Hunter Juniors matches and the stats continue to tick over for the Legend of the NCCUA.

In 2015 Sullivan was the first person to be inducted into the inaugural NCCUA Hall of Fame, and was also elevated to Legend status, currently the only person recognised as a Legend. This was in recognition of his outstanding achievements on and off the footy field, having also lead the Umpires Association through major changes between 2000 and 2005, as President and has continued serving the Association in other roles.

Since beginning his competitive umpiring career in 1970 Sully has received many awards, including the 1974 NAFLUA Umpire Achievement of the Year Award, two time NCCUA Goal Umpire of the Year, 2012-2013, as well as the honour of having that award named after him.

When discussing this milestone he pointed out a few highlights over his lengthy career. The first highlight was his first AFL match as an umpire in July 1966, between the National Service Side (based out of the Singleton Army Base) versus the Royal Australia Air Force side (which played in the Newcastle AFL Competition). His second highlight was his first competition match in Newcastle, between Newcastle City vs University which was played at Hawkins Oval in April 1970. Outside of the competition and his 20 plus Grand Finals John also counts Field Umpiring the Grand Final of the 2003 Australia University Championships as a personal highlight.

When asked how he feels about achieving this incredible milestone, Sullivan humbly remarked, “It’s nice to achieve this milestone, although in hindsight it is only a number.” He then made reference to a friend of his from South Australia who actually started umpiring after Sully who has umpired over 1600 matches. John continued to say “Absolutely pleased that I can still get out there now, specifically now with the younger group to be a mentor for them.”

Black Diamond AFL Football Operations Manager, Garry Burkinshaw has nothing but praise for Sullivan.

“Sully is an umpiring icon and has given so much to not only umpiring but also AFL in the region”. Burkinshaw said.

“His willingness to mentor and work with umpires is a great strength of his and is a key reason to the strength and growth of umpiring in the region” he added.

“We wish him all the best for Saturday”.

NCCUA President, Jake Lowe also praised Sullivan’s achievement.

“All of us in the NCCUA are incredibly proud of what this inspirational man has and continues to achieve in umpiring, both on and off the field”. Lowe said

There is nothing else left to say except, congratulations on your personal milestone Sully and long may your illustrious career and invaluable service to AFL in the Hunter and Central Coast continue.