James Halls retires after 20 years officiating football matches on the West Coast

RETIRING: After two decades as an umpire, Ceduna's James Halls has officiated his last match, retiring at the end of the 2021 Western Eyre Football League season. Photo: Luca Cetta
RETIRING: After two decades as an umpire, Ceduna's James Halls has officiated his last match, retiring at the end of the 2021 Western Eyre Football League season. Photo: Luca Cetta

For two decades James Halls controlled the action from the best seat in the house, but the end of the 2021 Western Eyre Football League season saw him call time on his umpiring days.

Mr Halls missed the grand final last weekend, with his final match being the preliminary final between Western United and the Blues at Penong.

The end of that clash meant a long career with whistle in hand - which started in the Great Southern Football League (GSFL) in 2000 and also took in the Far West/Western Eyre Football League (WEFL) and the Mid West Football League - drew to a close.

The 57-year-old said while he enjoyed the role it was time to let others have a go.

"My body was not in the best shape and I thought it was time to let the young guys have a crack at it," he said on calling it quits.

A former player throughout the Far West, Mr Halls represented Carawa before joining Ceduna Eagles, Smoky Bay and Thevenard, while he also played football in Adelaide before hanging up the boots.

He wanted to give back to the football community and decided through umpiring he could make it happen.

"It was something that I wanted to do when I was younger and I thought once I finished playing I'd contribute back in one way or another," Mr Halls said.

He spent a few months with the GSFL before moving back to the West Coast region.

Mr Halls was a Mid West umpire from 2005 to 2010, while either side of that stint he ruled the roost on Far West and Western Eyre clashes.

He said he was supposed to retire at the end of the 2020 season, but the COVID-forced cancellation meant he went around one more time in 2021.

Mr Halls could not say exactly how many matches he had taken control of, but he umpired multiple matches per weekend over the two decades.

Mainly an A grade umpire, Mr Halls also took control over junior matches, and had the privilege of being involved in big clashes, including grand finals in Ceduna and beyond - such as in the Eastern Eyre Football League.

"On average, over the 20 years, I probably did one or two games each week and some weeks I did three games," he said.

Mr Halls saw and heard it all on the field - including plenty of colourful words directed at him - but said the best thing to do as an umpire was to block out the outside noise and concentrate on the task at hand.

UMPIRE: James Halls was an umpire in the Far West/Western Eyre Football League, Mid West Football League and Great Southern Football League. Photo: Luca Cetta

UMPIRE: James Halls was an umpire in the Far West/Western Eyre Football League, Mid West Football League and Great Southern Football League. Photo: Luca Cetta

"There are plenty of umpires on the sidelines during games," he said.

"You try and not let the people get into your mind when you are concentrating on a game and you switch off from that side of the game.

"It's best to concentrate just on the game itself because if you listen to what they are saying, you forget what you are doing."

And with two decades of experience in shutting out that outside noise, it all became "water off a duck's back".

WEFL president Ron Redford thanked Mr Halls for his service to the league.

"We very much appreciated Jamie's commitment to umpiring over the years," he said.

"It is a difficult job and he showed his capability in dealing with it, and we congratulate him on a great performance."

Mr Halls said it was imperative for country football leagues, including Western Eyre, to have a new batch of umpires coming through.

He said some of the league's other veteran umpires struggled a bit as the pace of the game continues to increase.

"We need to get younger guys on board - at this stage it is not looking too promising but things might change over the next few months," Mr Halls said.

"A lot of clubs have their own internal umpires, but when it comes to A grade it is panel umpires, so we need to have people prepared to be on a panel to umpire.

"It is good that they have the lower grades covered, but we need more support from the public."

Mr Halls said that with nine umpires for the A grade in 2021, it meant that if somebody was unavailable during the regular season then one game would only have two field umpires involved rather than three.

He advised any potential new umpires to give it a shot.

"Have a go and don't be afraid - you are only human, if you make a mistake it is not a major problem, and you can rectify that by thinking that there's another way to do it next time," Mr Halls said.

"There are plenty of senior umpires who will guide the younger umpires who want to don the greens and have a go."