WA football has lost one of its greatest umpires with the passing of Mike Ball at the age of 66 after a long battle with dementia.
For more than two decades Ball was a leading umpire in the WAFL,VFL and AFL.
He was at the forefront during the greatest period of change in the game when he became the first non-Victorian appointed to the VFL Umpiring panel in 1987 at the start of the transition to a national competition.
Ball began his journey in the WAFL in 1976 at the age of 20,officiating as a field umpire at Bassendean Oval in 1976.
He was quickly identified for his proficiency and respect from players, umpiring League and State football over the next decade.
The 1983 WAFL Grand Final was the first of four he umpired, and later he was in charge of three State of Origin games against Victoria and three matches between WA and South Australia.
The 1992 season was Ball's last as an umpire, finishing on 301 games and becoming only the second umpire after Ray Montgomery to reach the 300-game milestone.
In total, his career included 235 WAFL regular season games,25 VFL,2 SANFL,19 AFL matches and 13 WAFL Finals.
One AFL final and six state games rounded out a remarkable on-field contribution.
Ball remains one of only eight field umpires to have umpired more than 300 senior games.
Aside from his brilliant on field career, Ball also played a leading role in administration.
He was appointed President of the WANFL Umpires Association for two years beginning in 1989, and in 1993 he took up a role in umpire development.
He was assistant umpire coach in 1993 and 1994,before taking control as field umpire coach in 2002.
Then, from 2002 to 2005 Ball was the WAFL Umpire Development Manager and from 2003 to 2007 was the WAFL's Field Umpire Observer.
In 1990,Ball was made a Life Member of the WANFL Umpires Association and joined the WANFL Hall of Fame in 1996.
Four years ago, Ball was honoured with induction into the WA Football Hall of Fame.
Even after officially leaving the game he continued to provide leadership and mentoring to emerging WAFL umpires.
WAFL Umpiring Talent Pathway Manager Dean Margetts was at the League's umpiring camp today when the news broke.
"He was bigger than umpiring itself in WA and it's a huge loss for football.
I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with Mike and the family over the past week and now is the time to reflect on a brilliant umpire and an even better man, Margetts said.
As a mark of respect, umpires attending the camp held a minute's silence.
Ball is survived by his wife Liz and three children Kasey, Jamie and Kendell.