On Sunday, an era came to an end when David Gentles umpired his final international game. The Australian native went out in style, calling the top-level men’s event in his home country as his farewell.
Gentles, as soft spoken off the pitch as he is authoritative on the pitch, has had perhaps one of his busiest tournament of his career here in Melbourne. Not only did he celebrate his 47th birthday mid-tournament, but he also made a quick mid-week trip to fly home to Sydney to collect an award for New South Wales Sports Official of the Year from his local state. His wife and three children also arrive late in the week to help their dad say goodbye to the life on the pitch he has known so long.
Gentles is one of the most experienced umpires on the international circuit. He whistled his first international game in 1996 and since then has gone onto a great career that has included 172 matches with three Olympic Games, three World Cups and seven Champions Trophy tournaments. All of these tournaments weren’t always easy for Gentles, who normally faced the difficulties of getting time off from a demanding job, the prospect of long travel to get to most tournaments and large chunks of time away from his family. But he always made umpiring a priority – and it was hockey that ultimately benefitted.
“David has been such a regular face at FIH tournaments in the last decade, that it will be hard to imagine him not on the pitch for us in the future,” said Richard Wilson, FIH Officials Manager. “He has been the ultimate professional at every event – easy going off the field and a strong presence both on the field and within the umpires panels.”
This week in Melbourne, Gentles has quietly been passing the torch onto the younger generation, but it is clear just how much he will be missed as the umpiring crew prepares to send off one of the legends in style.
But for now, Gentles, ever the professional, was focused on making sure his last few games were like the rest of his career – a success.
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