Football in the region provides so many things to a variety of people. When we narrow this perspective, we start to develop a deeper sense of not only what playing or coaching brings, but also umpiring the game brings. Umpiring in Outer East Football Netball is a team that includes over 130 participants with the age range from 12 years to 76 years old. However, within the dedicated and passionate group lay’s one very touching and meaningful story that many may not be aware of.
Matt Stickland, 52 years old, a husband to Sarah and father to 3 kids. Matt is a people person interested in how everyone is going and how he can help them, he is also most certainly a family person. And it is his family that have supported him and provided him with the courage to fight for his battle with MND.
He was diagnosed over 7 years ago; he is still as sharp as ever and can recall every detail of the terrible news when it was broken to him and Sarah. He was told the standard line 7 years ago. “Average lifespan is 24 – 36 months” and there is no treatment and no cure. Naturally he felt “can’t be true”, “must be something else” however after a second opinion it was confirmed. At this point in 2015 he was still playing football for Forest Hill FC in the vet’s team and had been playing since 1976 which began at the Basin FC. He has been a member of Hawthorn FC since 1981 and has been to hundreds of games over this time. He shares that he is witness to his own body shutting down, however his brain works fine and those that know Matt, can certainly hold him to that!
At the start of this year, he heard the call from the AFL that ‘6000 umpires short at community level’ and Matt took it on himself to get involved. He struggles with running which he admitted was noticeable in his last year of playing football in 2013, so he felt he could still goal umpire. He says, ‘being involved in the game I love, means I can meet a new group of people, and that’s always rewarding”. He also says that Umpiring is “an encouragement circle, working together as a team and the respect is brilliant”. He is enjoying seeing the game in a non-biased manner and enjoys educating umpires on the players perspective. He also likes to surround himself around people who appreciate what he CAN do not what he CAN’T.
This weekend of OEFN, Matt’s fellow goal umpires will wear MND beanies in their games and this has meant a great deal to him. “This tells me people are in our corner, I just want to go up and thank everyone in a beanie for their support”. He shared how other’s that are challenged more than he is with MND are still holding hope for a cure, and say’s they would like to say thank you too!
In 2017 Matt was a part of the original ‘Lighthouse trial’ with 49 other participants which sees him take the Triumeg tablet daily and he has noticed the symptoms have slowed down. With the support of fundraising, 4 new clinical trials will begin this year which gives people with MND a reason for hope.
Some of Matt’s inspiring words are to stay active, stay positive and spend time with people that make you happy. Family is the centre of his life, and he just wants to be the best father and husband he can be. When he has time, he also strives to be the best goal umpire he can be and has officiated in senior premier league matches this season. You will see Matt this weekend officiating the Reserve and Senior matches at Gembrook, and we hope to see him fulfill another ambition of his very soon, having one of his racehorses win a race at Flemington!