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John Ward pulls stumps after incredible 20 years of service to umpiring

04-170420 Fry-Ward retirement01

Australian Cricket thanks Cricket Australia (CA) National Umpire Panel (NUP) member John Ward for his dedicated service to umpiring.

Ward started officiating in the Victorian Premier Cricket competition in season 1996/97. Following a handful of state Second XI fixtures, he was appointed to his first CA Under 17 National Championships in January 2001 in Brisbane. Later that month, Ward stood in his first WNCL match in the match between Victoria and South Australia. 

The following season heralded Ward’s List-A debut on 4 November 2001 in the fixture between Victoria and South Australia. The game was played at the former Richmond Cricket Ground, which is in the shadows of the MCG where Ward would eventually make his First-Class debut and spend many hours in the middle. Later that season Ward was appointed to the CA Under 19 Championships in Newcastle whilst continuing to develop his craft within the Victorian umpiring ranks. 

On 25 November 2003, Ward made his First-Class debut in the match between Victoria and India. The game featured a star-studded touring team, including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh.

Ward joined the CA National Umpire Panel in season 2005/06. His elevation to the National Panel coincided with the first edition of the state-based Big Bash League. Ward made his debut on 8 January 2006 in the match between Victoria and South Australia, held at Junction Oval in St Kilda. It was Ward’s only appearance in the seven-game competition that year. In comparison, Ward’s final season in the KFC BBL|09 yielded seven appointments on-field alone, as part of the wider 61 game competition. 

In July 2006, Ward was involved in his first ‘A’ Series. The Top End Series in Cairns, featuring Australia ‘A’, New Zealand ‘A’ and Pakistan ‘A’, which was a challenging affair with a number of games abandoned due to inclement weather. 

Throughout July 2007, Ward made two Women’s International debuts in Darwin. The first, his Women’s Twenty20 debut, was on 19 July, and two days later his Women’s One-Day International debut. During this Series between Australia and New Zealand, he stood in a total of five Women’s One-Day Internationals. 

Ward had his first taste of umpiring on foreign conditions in November 2011. Travelling to New Zealand, he officiated in Lincoln and Dunedin as part of the annual ‘umpire exchange’ program. Ward coincidentally returned to Lincoln in February 2016 to stand in a Sheffield Shield fixture between New South Wales and Western Australia. This was a history making match, being the first time in its then 123-year history that an Australian domestic cricket match was played on foreign soil. 

Having umpired 14 of the state-based Big Bash League matches, which included the final in January 2007 between Victoria and Tasmania at the MCG and South Australia versus New South Wales at Adelaide Oval in February 2011, he made his debut in the new, eight-team Big Bash League that we know today. His first game was between the Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes at Adelaide Oval on 28 December 2011. 

In February 2012, Ward again travelled overseas, this time to stand in the SuperSport Series in South Africa. Unfortuantely inclement weather hampered his trip, with his first game completely abandoned without a toss in East London. Though his second game got underway, between the Lions and Cape Cobras at the famous Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.   

Upon returning to Australian domestic cricket, Ward was appointed on-field to his first List-A Final in late February. South Australia hosted Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval, and it turned out to be a very exciting final as the game was a tie. As South Australia had qualified higher, they were awarded the win in front of a very jubilant local crowd. 

Ward made an important step in his umpiring pathway the following season. On 28 January 2013 he made his men’s Twenty20 International debut at the MCG played between Australia and Sri Lanka. He returned to the middle for a further Twenty20 international in February, as Australia hosted the West Indies at the Gabba. 

Domestic finals appointments continued for Ward, with him standing in the next four consecutive List-A Finals following his first final at Adelaide Oval. In March 2013, Ward was appointed to the first of two Sheffield Shield Finals. Held at Blundstone Arena, Tasmania played out a draw against Queensland. He was again in the middle for the deciding match of the 2013/14 season, as New South Wales took on Western Australia at Manuka Oval in Canberra. 

Ward had his first experience of an ICC tournament when he travelled to the United Arab Emirates throughout November 2013. He was appointed to the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers which featured teams such as Afghanistan, Bermuda, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Nepal, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Scotland.

On 17 January 2014, Ward made his most significant umpiring debut. Held at the Gabba, Ward officiated in his first One-Day International as Australia hosted England. Sri Lankan ICC Elite Panel member Kumar Dharmasena joined him in the middle, whilst Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle oversaw proceedings. It was an exciting debut for Ward, as Australian brought up the win nine wickets down in the final over. 

During the Australian ‘off-season’ in July/August 2014, Ward was appointed to the ‘A’ Series across Darwin and Townsville. It was during the First-Class match between Australia ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’ at Tony Ireland Stadium that he brought up his 50th First-Class match. 

In December 2014, Ward became one of the last home board appointed umpires to officiate as Third Umpire in a Test match in Australia. The Third Test at the MCG, between Australia and India, was still played without the Decision Review System (DRS), whilst an ICC Elite Panel Umpire must now be appointed for neutrality considerations.

Another exciting opportunity presented itself during the 2015 ‘off-season’, as Ward was invited to umpire at the Caribbean Premier League. His hectic match and travel schedule saw him appointed to 12 matches across various Caribbean countries, including the Final alongside fellow Australian umpire Mick Martell. 

Ward went on his third ‘umpire exchange’, this time to India to officiate in the Ranji Trophy. His second match in Natham was incredibly scary after Ward was struck with a blow to the head. The injury led Ward to wear a helmet in twenty20 matches from there-on in. 

His performances in his first season of the Caribbean Premier League was rewarded with another invite the following year. Throughout July/August 2016 he was appointed to 14 matches, and again to the Final. During this time Ward also experienced umpiring matches well past midnight thanks to inclement weather. 

Ward’s final overseas umpiring appointments came as part of the franchise-based Hong Kong T20 Blitz competition in March 2017. 

In recent seasons, Ward’s experience has been shared amongst Australia’s up and coming umpires. In October 2017 he was appointed as a mentor umpire in the CA Under 17 National Championships in Brisbane, and this season stood in the CA Under 19 National Championships in Perth. Whilst his influence on-field was positive for the umpires and players alike, his off-field guidance and leadership for the officiating team was instrumental. 

Ward called time on his incredible career in round nine of the Sheffield Shield. Fittingly, it was alongside fellow retiring and long-serving umpire Simon Fry. In total, Ward stood in 87 First-Class matches, of which 76 were Sheffield Shield fixtures. 

In the 50-over white ball format, Ward retires with seven men’s and 11 women’s One-Day Internationals to his name, including a further four as Third Umpire. In addition to his One-Day Internationals, Ward officiated in 77 one-day domestic matches. Ward also umpired in seven WNCL matches. 

In the shortest format, Ward has stood in eight men’s and six women’s T20 Internationals. At a domestic level, he stood in 66 T20 Domestic men’s games, which included four Finals. In total, he finishes with a remarkable 117 T20 matches under his belt across men’s and women’s cricket. This included appointment to the WBBL Final in the 2017/18 season at Adelaide Oval. 

Off-field, Ward’s contribution to umpiring has been just as important. For several years Ward was a member of the peer voted, three-person Umpire Leadership Group (ULG). The group were involved in negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding directly with Cricket Australia, which resulted in all National Umpire Panel contracts becoming a viable full-time profession for the first time. 

Australian cricket thanks John for his long-serving dedication to umpiring and wishes him the best of luck in retirement.