What if you are passionate about playing Australian Rules Football, but have severe haemophilia? How can you keep doing something you love and avoid the high impact injuries that young men often experience with football?
Chris Gordon is a remarkable young man who has been able to balance his dreams and the reality of having severe haemophilia. At the time of this interview in 2012, Chris was 23 years old and an Australian Football League (AFL) umpire and studying primary school teaching.
Since then, Chris has been selected to umpire in 7 AFL Grand Final matches: 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Chris watched his first AFL game with his mother at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on a Friday night. “I was 6 years old. I knew then that I loved the game – the lights, the size of the stadium and all the people.”
Chris played AFL Auskick with his mates all through primary school. He learned general co-ordination and skills and played football games regularly. Auskick is an AFL program to introduce children to Australian Football.
But when Chris left primary school, he struck the same problem as many boys with haemophilia. In secondary school the size and weight of boys playing football increases dramatically and contact injuries can be much more serious. His doctor at the Haemophilia Centre advised Chris and his parents that he should stop playing AFL football because it would be too dangerous.
Chris tried very hard to prove to his doctor and parents that it would not be a problem for him, but they were not convinced.
“Then a friend’s father suggested I have a go at boundary umpiring. I still felt part of the game, even though I wasn’t playing football, and I trained and was on the grounds and in the rooms afterwards with my mates.”
Chris threw his energy into improving his skills and performance.
“Running, fitness and accuracy are crucial to umpiring – you can’t make any errors.”
Chris has had prophylaxis (preventive) treatment since he was two years old and infused his own treatment since he was 10 or 12.
He has regular contact with the Haemophilia Treatment Centre and his high level of fitness helps him to have greater resilience, strong muscles to support his joints and better health.
What was next for Chris?
“I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher – my aim is to become a Physical Education teacher and manage school sporting events.”
It will be a great way for Chris to share his skills with the wider community.