HAILING from Indianapolis where American sports occupied TV screens, Mark Gall managed to stumble across an Australian Rules game that would change his life forever.
After viewing a game in the 1980s and finding it intriguing, he didn’t watch one again until 2011.
In that year, Gall rediscovered his interest in the game, as his eyes were glued to the Grand Final between Geelong and Collingwood.
“I was home one weekend, and I was channel surfing and they had the 2011 Grand Final on and I was like cool! I’m going to watch this for a little bit because I haven’t seen it in 30 years,” he said.
“It was in the first quarter and I never changed the channel.
“From then on, I’ve been a big fan, it was just a total fluke.
“If I hadn’t been home that day, it probably wouldn’t have happened.”
After this game, Gall wanted to find out more about the unusual sport, as he wanted to get involved in whatever way he could.
The Geelong supporter did some digging online and soon found the result he was looking for.
“I found that there’s a team not far from where I live,” Gall said.
“I live about 50 miles south-west of Indianapolis and Indianapolis has a team.
“I was 47 at the time, it was not a good age to get into full contact sport.
“Then I found out our national tournament was in Cincinnati which was three hours from my house, maybe less.
“I was like ‘this is awesome’, so I volunteered to help out with the umpires, so eventually I got into goal umpiring because I know the game but I don’t know it enough to call it on the field.
“Being a goal umpire is not quite as physical, not that I couldn’t do it. but I just don’t know the game enough to be a field umpire so I became a goal umpire.”
Since then, Gall has umpired in many national USAFL tournaments but one in particular has led him to this moment.
“At our national tournament in 2014, I came across Doug Drinkwater (EDFL Field Umpire Coach) and we just kind of chatted the whole weekend and he said as I left, ‘hey, if you’re ever in Melbourne, come on by!’
“You know, it’s 10,000 miles away, I didn’t think at the time about coming here but as time went on, I was like you know what, I’m going to take him up on this!”
Drinkwater’s offer turned into an opportunity, as Gall took to the field in the Strathmore Community Bank Premier Division Reserves match between Keilor and Glenroy on Saturday.
He hopes this isn’t the only opportunity he gets here in Australia, admitting that he would love to spend a long period of time here one day.
“It would be great if I could spend a year over here and devote a season,” Gall said.
“As it is right now, I’ll do a regional tournament which is once a year and then I’ll do our national tournament.
“It will be great to be able to do this every weekend.”