Magic Moments: Umpire Carey Takes an Unforgettable Mark – Rd 15, 1999 v Fremantle

Strange things happen when St Kilda plays Fremantle and it was no different in 1999. Before the Round 15 clash, Peter Carey addressed his fellow umpires. ‘I’m hoping to do 300 games next week,” he told his colleagues. “So let’s not be having any stuff-ups,’ he implored. Little did he know that it would be he that would become part of football folklore with one of the strangest moments of umpire intervention.

In the opening quarter, former Saint turned Docker Adrian Fletcher looked to bring the ball inboard from the boundary line to teammate Brad Wirra. While Fletcher might have considered the danger of a lurking Saint Gavin Mitchell before delivering his pass, he could not have predicted what would ultimately prevent it from finding the intended to target.

We’ll let Peter Carey explain what happened next.

“It all happened so quickly and I just can’t remember a lot of the circumstances,” he told the Football Record the following week. “I jumped to try and get out of the way but the ball was coming straight at my face, so I caught it.”

Gavin Mitchell was first on the scene to prevent the umpire playing on, but if he or any of the other players gave Carey a hard time about his first career mark they didn’t register with him. “I can’t really remember what any of the players said to me because it was all such a rush.

One of the most respected umpires in the game, it wasn’t surprising that his thoughts in the aftermath turned to his colleagues. “I wish I hadn’t done it, because of all the focus it brings on umpires, but I tried to forget it as quickly as possible on the night because if you focus on a mistake, you can end up making another one pretty quickly.”

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While it was an embarrassing moment for the senior official, it didn’t prevent him from turning out for his 300th game the following week. Just the sixth man to reach the milestone, the enormity of his achievement was not lost on him. When asked what it meant to him he responded, “A lot. There are only five others who have got to 300. It is an ultimate milestone for me in what has been a fulfilling career. You are involved in the best game in the world and I’ve done Grand Finals and state games.”

Considered by many as the greatest game ever played, it’s not surprising that Carey nominated the 1989 Grand Final as the best game he had officiated. “The scores were close, it was physical, the goals of Ablett, Hawthorn players like Brereton and ‘Dipper’ (Robert DiPierdomenico). That would be the best game I have been in.”

The Hawks and Cats would also feature in his most controversial and embarrassing moments. Perhaps, for accuracy that should be second most embarrassing moment after the mark at Subiaco. “I was umpiring in 1985 the day of the Leigh Matthews incident against Geelong,” he told the Football Record about the most controversial moment (Almost a month after the game Matthews had his League registration cancelled by the VFL Commission after an incident involving Geelong’s Neville Bruns).

As for the embarrassing moment, he nominated a match a Kardinia Park. “I lost my boot in the centre mud and couldn’t find it for about three minutes. I was following the play down the ground and had to run through the centre and that’s when I lost the boot. But I had to keep going, a goal was kicked and I had to return to the centre to find the boot.”

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Nearly 20 years after his moment of madness at Subiaco, his mark was again remembered by the football world. In 2008, as part of the games 150-year celebrations, his mark was recognised as one of the games’ 150 Greatest Moments.

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