I just tried to earn their respect on performance:
What made you want to become an umpire, and importantly, what made you continue to want to do it?
When I stopped playing, one of my close friends suggested I join him in an umpiring course. I did not really want to, but he twisted my arm and I went along and we did the course at the New South Wales Cricket Umpires' Association [NSWUA]. It was a good experience. I managed to pass their exam and my mate failed, so he went back to play cricket and I decided to stay on and look at umpiring as a way of earning some extra dollars to help me through university.
I did not take to umpiring with a view to going anywhere or doing anything - I just wanted to be part of it, but it's my nature that if I do anything or take up a project, I try and do it to the best of my ability. So, very quickly I found myself just working up through the grades, like a player would.
Who were the people who helped you in your development?
I had some really good teachers, and great leadership from some very, very experienced people within the game - guys who were Test umpires or guys who had been around Sydney grade cricket for a large number of years. I was extremely lucky that they were very happy to pass on the benefit of their experience, to share knowledge, and also able to mentor me in a way that helped create who I am today. They helped me in my umpiring style, where I try to be as unobtrusive as possible and try to be as professional and player-conscious as possible. I would not be talking to a player out on the field unless the player spoke to me. I would not try to be the centre of attention. I would make sure my preparation and presentation were of very high standards. Looking back now, I was just lucky to be part of the NSWUA for so many years, learning those values of cricket umpiring.
Are good umpires born or made?
To be a good umpire you have to be a good person, have good people skills and have good values. Those are the things people can constantly improve upon. So it is really important going forward that we look at the right style of person to be a match official. Not everybody is suited because it is a very demanding and challenging role. When you do a good job, no one says anything or notices, but when you do a bad job, you get a lot of criticism and negative focus.
You were one of the umpires who consciously built relationships with players. Was it your personality, or did you do it so you could do a better job?
All I tried to do was be the best umpire I could be. I just tried to earn their respect on performance. I did not try to earn their respect or build a relationship based on friendship. That is a very difficult and dangerous way to go about it, because you do have to make very tough decisions: as to whether or not to give a player out, whether to abandon a game, and all those sorts of things. So it is really important that you make decisions for the right reasons and build relationships based on respect and trust.
Over the years, has the respect from the players increased or lessened?
Players have always appreciated that umpiring is a difficult job. Whenever we ask a player whether they would like to give umpiring a go, the vast majority of them would say, "Why in the world would I do that? You've got to be joking. I could not stand in the sun for six to seven hours and do what you guys do." There is a healthy level of respect.
What has happened is, with the way we use technology in cricket today, a lot of people now appreciate how difficult the decisions are to make and how good the umpiring is at the highest level. When you look at the decision-making percentages these days, which are as high as 94 to 95% (and that is the average), there is a healthy understanding and a healthy respect for how difficult an umpire's job is. Having said that, it is incumbent upon me and every match official to always look for ways to get better.