400 matches in and no signs of stopping
March 04, 2015
One Victorian umpire has reached the milestone of 400 First Grade games
400 games is no easy feat for anybody – but Victorian Premier Cricket umpire Bill Sheahan isn’t looking at milestones.
Nor does he emphasize the cricket legends he has rubbed shoulders with because for the veteran umpire, cricket is about the game.
Bill recently umpired his landmark match in a First Grade fixture between Carlton CC and Camberwell Magpies CC but his umpiring career started by chance.
“I was a player and the club secretary at St. Pauls Cricket Club and they needed to find an umpire on a Wednesday Afternoon … this was back in 1981,” Bill recounted.
The former public servant had flexibility in his working hours so didn’t hesitate to put his hand up to help out – a quality that hasn’t waned over time.
After a successful first stint as a fill-in umpire, Bill was offered a chance to continue with the program but had other ideas – until an unfortunate accident changed his mind.
“I got a call and it was the head of the umpiring panel who said I could get into the program but it was a pretty swift and emphatic no from me.
“Not long after, I hurt my knee after playing basketball, that put a dampener on my cricket career … I called back and asked if the (umpiring) offer was on the table.”
The 61-year-old made his First XI debut at Glenferrie Oval and remembers the Melbourne CC and Hawthorn-East Melbourne CC fixture like it was yesterday.
“It was a firsts match at Hawthorn … initially I just wanted to see how far I could go, I was working on a five-year-plan but here I am 35 seasons later,” Bill said.
(above) Even the scorers found a way to congratulate Bill Sheahan's marvellous achievement
Astonishingly, Bill’s rapid rise through the ranks was swift, seeing him umpire a First-Class fixture within eight years of taking up the profession.
“My first First-Class match was Victoria against Sri Lanka at Sale … it was when Arajuna (Ranatunga) and Aravinda (De Silva) were just young guys.”
After plying his trade in the Victorian Premier and State competitions, Bill was recognized with a central umpiring position in an Australia and New Zealand Test match in 1993-94 – the proudest moment in his long career.
Australia dominated the match but it was a particular decision Bill made that sticks out in his memory.
“(Blair) Pocock advanced Shane Warne and Ian Healy whipped the bails off, it was close but I gave him out straight away … I forgot we had TV umpires at this level but Steve Randell gave me the thumbs up to say I got it right.”
Bill umpired one more Test match – this time the Hansje Cronje-led South Africa on its first post-apartheid tour – and stood in 12 ODI fixtures as well as being the TV umpire on more than 10 occasions.
Not just confined to Australian wickets, Bill has toured with the Melbourne CC on trips to Singapore, Malaysia, China and Thailand.
“It’s about providing the best service possible no matter what grade you are umpiring, whether it’s the Australian team or the under-12s,” said Bill
Looking to the future, Bill said the next milestone might be out of the picture but he hasn’t once thought about retirement.
“500 games might be a bit of a stretch, it’ll take seven years, but I’m not ruling anything out.
“I love what I do.”