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AFL Umpire Head Coach Hayden Kennedy has advised the AFL that he will be stepping down from that role after the conclusion of Round 10. Kennedy, a teacher by profession, began umpiring AFL games in 1988 and went on to officiate in 495 games, including five Grand Finals. He retired after Round 17, 2011 as the record holder for most games umpired. That record was broken by Shane McInerney (502) games) before he retired at the end of 2019. Kennedy would easily have surpassed 502 games had it not been for a bout of plantar fasciitis (inflammation of tissue in the foot) several seasons before he retired. 

After he retired, Kennedy was appointed as an assistant coach of umpires. In 2014, he was promoted to head coach. In his roles as umpire coach, he worked tirelessly to develop and improve the skills of umpires. 

AFL General Manager of Operations Steve Hocking said, "On behalf of the AFL and wider football and umpiring community, I'd like to thank Hayden for his significant contribution to the game. Hayden’s expertise, passion, tenacity and professionalism has been a tremendous asset to both the AFL and the umpiring group ... Hayden has contributed to the progress of Australian Football through the implementation of a team first approach to umpiring which is now prevalent at all levels of the game ... it is equally noteworthy to highlight his unrecognized support of community and state league umpires and their coaches, always generously giving his time to promote umpiring in any way that he can ... ".

Hayden said he has enjoyed his time in umpiring and looked forward to the next phase of his career, “I would like to thank the AFL for the experiences and the opportunities that has been provided to me throughout my time in football. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have experienced what I have in this extraordinary game. As a coach, I have not taken the job lightly and I sincerely hope I have contributed in a positive manner to make our game the best game it can be.”

Debut: 1988
Total Games: 495
All Australian: 1997
State of Origin games umpired: 3
AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match: 2008
Finals umpired: 39
Grand Finals: 5 (1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2003)
Life Member of the AFL Umpires’ Association
Recruited to AFL / VFL Cadet squad in 1984 and promoted to the senior list in 1987
Started umpiring in the Essendon District Football League in 1983

Hayden also attended two USAFL National Tournaments, 1998 and again several years ago. In 1998, the USAFL was in just their second year and nowhere near as large or as well-equipped as they are today. In 1998, teams had to provide their own flags. Those that did not have any shared with those who did. There was an early match on Sunday and the only people at the ground were the two teams, the goal umpires, and Hayden as the field umpire. This author was one of those goal umpires. Neither of the two teams had any goal flags, so we two-goal umps could do nothing but wave our arms at each other after a score - until yours truly saw a few of the Milwaukee group arriving at the ground. Being from Chicago, I knew they had makeshift goal flags - oversized men's undershorts stapled to bamboo sticks. There we were waving underwear at each other with an AFL umpire running around the ground! One of the flags fell off the stick so I used my bandana to tie it back on. Having met him, I know he has a wickedly cheeky sense of humor. Even though he must have thought we were completely insane he probably found it quite hilarious. 

Sources: Nadine Rabah, AFL Media Release, AFL Record Season Guides, author's notes

Article last changed on Wednesday, May 05, 2021 - 7:16 PM EDT

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