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Record-breaking ump notes shift in respect from players, fans could improve

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UMPIRE Shane McInerney will break the all-time record for the most senior games officiated in VFL/AFL history when he takes to the field at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

The Western Bulldogs and Geelong clash will be the 496th match McInerney has officiated as a senior AFL umpire, surpassing the previous record of 495 set by Hayden Kennedy in 2011 (Kennedy is now the AFL umpires' head coach).

McInerney is passionate about his role, but happy to fly under the radar by contrast to fellow official 'Razor' Ray Chamberlain.

"The beautiful thing about umpiring is it's a really broad church, we've got a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, but we all work really well together," McInerney told reporters on Friday. 

"Ray's got a personality [but] I'm not sure AFL footy's ready for 32 'Razor' Rays running out there."

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Along with the increased pace of the game, McInerney noted the vast improvement in player-umpire relationships as a key difference since his debut at Princes Park in 1994. 

"If I think back to my very first few years, I was pre-occupied going out onto the ground thinking 'what type of comeback will I have when a player tells me I'm no good?', but… with the advent of the microphones, the relationship that we've got and the conduct of the players on the ground is fantastic."

The seasoned official also encouraged fans to think about the impact of their behaviour on the other side of the fence.

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"Nobody expects to be applauded off the ground, but I think that when the abuse can be personal and very directed, that's an area that needs to be improved," he said.

"We've got to remember that what happens at AFL level filters down to the community… if we want to make umpiring an inclusive environment, that'd be a good place to start."

In his 26th season as a senior umpire, the 48-year-old shows no signs of slowing down despite the physical demands of his role.

"We do about 15km per game, if I reflect over my career that's getting up to about 7,500km… that's Sydney to Perth and back, so no wonder I'm sleeping really well at night."

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