Veteran AFL umpire Ray Chamberlain has confirmed members of his cohort have needed medication to minimise the mental and physical toll of continuous bouncing.
The future of the game’s historic feature is in doubt, as AFL umpires’ association boss Peter Howe was quoted as saying the bounce will be gone within two years in the Herald Sun.
Chamberlain, who has umpired at AFL level since 2004, has conceded the physical toll bouncing has is immense.
“I had a shoulder reconstruction two years ago and that wasn’t from tennis,” he told SEN Afternoons.
“I’m older now and it could be attributed to many things, but I wake up at night and my back is cooked. We have guys who have epidurals, who have had back surgery.
“Luke Farmer in Perth hasn’t umpired an AFL game in nearly 18 months. He had back surgery to correct some stuff.
“Shaun Ryan will turn up and tell me how many bounces he has got for the day as he walks into the room. 'I have 12 today and that’s it. I’m good today, I got 20. I got 4.' That’s the reality of it.
“Fortunately I’m not responsible for making that decision, wiser people are.”
While also explaining the psychological strains of the bounce, Chamberlain did say the umpires would continue to perform the skill if it’s necessary.
“I’m aware of guys who have done that,” he said, when asked if umpires have taken medication to help anxiety.
“You’d be surprised as to who those people have been.
“I’m a chronic chucker. I get that wound up prior to going out over that. Days when we are sweet for rain, I don’t bat an eyelid.
“I struggle with it at the elite level, I’m not an elite bouncer. I survive, I work really hard at it and spend way too much time trying to get it right.
“If they say to us, boys you’re bouncing, well they’re the boss and our function is to undertake the role and we will do it to the best of our ability.
“I understand the tradition element of it and that’s super cool. If we still got to do it next year, I’ll keep practicing and I’ll keep going at it the best possible way. If they cook it, there will be no tears from me.”
Chamberlain also opened up about how it’s difficult for junior umpires to reach the AFL stage, as the bounce isn’t practiced in other leagues across the country.
“Community, they don’t bounce. State leagues don’t bounce, unless you’re an AFL aspirant, TAC Cup don’t bounce,” he said.
“We have this situation occurring where, whether you like it or not, it’s something where umpires are coming to the AFL and trying to get to the elite level, trying to learn how to undertake a skill under incredible scrutiny, stress, anxiety and pressures.”
Legendary ruck man Simon Madden called for the abolishment of the bounce yesterday, believing it will help ruckmen if the ball is thrown up.
“Just throw the ball up and move on,” he told SEN Breakfast.
“We need to go one way or the other. Either throw it up or let it bounce wherever it goes. Don’t call it back because it interferes with the game.
“I think it’ll help the ruckmen because then they can actually start to have a contest based on the ball being in the middle of the ground, so then they can have angles and decisions based on that.”