Neville Coutts will umpire his 666th and final senior NFL/DVFL match at Preston City Oval this Sunday when West Preston-Lakeside and Greensborough meet in the elimination final.
Couuts holds the record for senior appointments by over 50 games from his long time friend and fellow goal umpire Terry Maher.
To put that in perspective, let’s say you average 21 games per year – 18 home and away and three finals – that is over 32 years at the top of his game.
Let’s not make light of this. Neville has spent more time on the NFL/DVFL football field than any other player or official by a street!
Neville first appeared on the scene in 1984 coming from the NMFL as a well credentialed field umpire. Unfortunately injury prevented him taking to the field in the DVFL so he took up goal umpiring.
It was tough to break in to the A Grade back then with the likes of Roy Goode, Ron Goldspink, Alan Scaiffe and “Dicky” Norman at the top of their games. However, he did get in to the seniors and has never looked back.
Like footballers, umpires strive to achieve the pinnacle in their sport. Neville has been appointed to 21 senior grand finals (15 Division 1 and six Division 2), with his first in 1988 and his last just last year.
He has also officiated in eight reserves grand finals and one under-19 grand final. Neville’s first grand final (Division 2 B grade) was in 1985, so of a possible 32 grand finals between 1985 and 2016 he officiated in all but two. Now that is consistency.
Neville takes his role seriously and professionally, as all umpires should. He always presents at the ground in plenty of time, dressed in NUA off-field attire (it used to be a tie last century), checks out the goal areas, then heads to the pavilion to have a chat with some of the many friends and acquaintances he has made over the time.
He never speaks badly of anyone (well, not in public anyway). Oh, and as a creature of habit he must have his two dim sims and a coffee before the game.
Neville is putting back in to umpiring what he has gained out of it. He is the official training coach of the goal umpires and for many years he, and a group of other senior umpires, have taken it upon themselves to mentor and advise young and aspiring umpires.
He gets great pleasure seeing young umpires develop their skills and improving, encouraging them to move on to the VFL. His behind-the-scenes role in nurturing and developing umpires of all disciplines cannot be underestimated.
Everyone involved with the NFL and its clubs should be extremely grateful that we have had a Neville Coutts in our ranks to help improve the overall standard and professionalism of the umpiring group.
Fortunately, Neville has indicated he is willing to continue as a coach and mentor to the goal umpires in to the foreseeable future.
Without the support of his wife Heather, son Shane and daughter Kimberley, who are not football fans, Neville would not have been able to achieve what he has between the posts.
It is sure to make Neville extremely proud to walk on to Preston one last time his other son, Justin, who will be officiating as field umpire.
Neville, on behalf of the NUA, and all at the NFL, may I personally congratulate you on a magnificent career with many highlights that will be hard to surpass by any umpire in the future.