Chris’s Story

It is easy to fall into an illusory trap of circumstance – the belief that we are bound to our limitations. But sometimes our limitations can be our greatest strengths or perhaps our greatest motivators.

Indeed, life is challenging. It throws us many different obstacles, which can impede our goals and aspirations. However, it is up to us to defy those odds and write our own journeys – there is a reason they say that taking the road less travelled makes all the difference. This is something Challenge member, Chris Gordon, knows all too well.

Chris, who is now 31 years of age, was born with a severe blood-disorder called Haemophilia. As a child, Chris loved footy and as a mad footy fanatic, Chris dreamed that one day he might be able to pull on an AFL guernsey and play the sport he loved.

However, Chris’ illness had other plans for him and forced him to hang up the footy boots at the mere age of 12. This was shattering news for Chris as he was an exceptional football player.

Despite all of this, Chris refused to let this deter him and he persisted with his love of footy. Though Chris realised that his dream to be a professional footballer would never come to fruition, he did not give up entirely on the hope of attaining a career in the AFL industry. Instead, Chris hunted a career as an AFL umpire – an occupation that demands an elite level of fitness and for someone like Chris, requires heroic determination and belief.

Chris was ready to put in the hard yards to achieve his newly found goal and did everything within his power to put himself in the best position to do this. In 2006, Chris applied for Challenge’s Christopher Wise Scholarship, with the hope he could use the financial support to further his skills in the umpiring profession. He was successful in his application and invested the funds in a pair of elite training shoes. That same year, Chris was selected to umpire the TAC Cup Under-18’s Grand Final, edging him closer to his dream.

All these years later, Chris is now one of the AFL’s most respected umpires – so much so he was given the honour of umpiring the 2011, 2015, 2018 and 2019 AFL Grand Finals. This is an enormous personal achievement which has come from dedication, persistence and a will to overcome the limitations of an illness.

If you love footy, you probably know that it is easy to lose your temper with the umpires. But the reality is, umpires train day in, day out to do their job to the best of their ability. Each game they are analysed and graded for their performance. Over the course of the season, a ranking system is created amongst the umpires to ensure that come Grand Final day, the best umpires are selected to adjudicate one of Australia’s biggest sporting events of the year.

This means that Chris is one of the best in the business. He has had another remarkable season in 2021 and is hoping that he can land the gig for what would be his fifth time.Chris has worked extremely hard to reach the pinnacle of his umpiring career, refusing to let his illness dictate his dreams.

When we asked Chris what he would say to other Challenge members in similar positions, he said: “Never give up on a passion. There is always a way you can fulfill that dream. It might be a different fork in the road, but work to your strengths rather than your weaknesses.”

Chris also works full-time with Nike as Sports Marketing Coordinator, managing some of Australia’s elite athletes. How he manages it all is beyond us, but he is an extraordinary human being!

Challenge feels enormously proud to know someone as incredible as Chris and we hope his story can be a source of inspiration to you all.