Magic milestone in ‘amazing’ Pro League series
UMPIRING 50 international matches wasn't the only deserved milestone for Ipswich official Steve Rogers.
He was the first male to control a women's Pro League game after the rare experience of umpiring a men's match between 2016 Olympic finalists Argentina and The Netherlands.
Before the current sporting shutdown, that capped a busy but hugely satisfying five-week period for the Tivoli-based sportsman.
"I think I can pretty much do anything now,'' Rogers said, when asked what his latest International Hockey Federation (IHF) opportunities meant.
"It was 15 years in the making . . . a long time.
"I never thought I would actually make it to the top.
"It's been a lot of fitness over the years.''
Having terrific family support, the dedicated Ipswich sportsman is proud of his accomplishments, having recently umpired his 50th and 51st matches during the IHF series in New Zealand.
Rogers, 40, was one of Australia's up and coming umpires chosen by the IHF for the current Pro League series featuring 10 of the best teams in the world.
"I sat on 43 (caps) there for quite a while and then all of a sudden I get all the Pro League games,'' he said.
In what created Australian hockey history, Rogers was selected to help officiate two women's games between New Zealand and Belgium in Auckland.
Another Aussie umpire Aleisha Neumann officiated a men's game.
"This is great recognition and a memorable moment for two of our elite officials and also for our sport,'' Hockey Australia CEO Matt Favier said at the time.
A week after his historic achievement, Rogers reached his half century milestone in the men's Pro League games between New Zealand and Argentina, also in New Zealand.
"I received the email in September last year and was kind of a bit shocked that I got upgraded to that level,'' Rogers said.
Eight Pro League matches later, Rogers is waiting to see what further opportunities are in store when the coronavirus situation settles.
He was to officiate in India in May before that series was called off.
"With the Olympics being cancelled, who knows what they will do?'' Rogers said.
"They might even extend the (Pro League) season out to maybe Christmas time.''
One of the most encouraging aspects of controlling Pro League games was working with the game's best players preparing for Olympic selection.
That provided a massive highlight for the former Norths A-Grade striker and Wests club coach.
Rogers helped officiate in front of more than 10,000 patriotic Argentine fans against the powerhouse Dutch combination. Both matches in Argentina went to penalty shootouts.
"It was probably one of the best things that I've umpired,'' Rogers said.
"The Argentine people love it.
"It was amazing.''