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David Carpenter - The Umpire Who Spoke His Mind

David Carpenter - The Umpire Who Spoke His Mind
By Dan Liebke • Issue #18 • View online
“Never fucken kicked a dog in my life and you know it, you PETArds.” - David Carpenter’s penultimate tweet
Role: Umpire
Born: 23 May, 1951
Career Span: 1994-2012
Internationals: 89 Tests, 191 ODIs
Key Statistic: Appearances before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal - 18
Nickname: Woodworks 
David Carpenter was an Australian rules footballer who played in the Tasmanian Football League between 1984 and 1988 before a shoulder injury forced him to quit. He surprised everybody by immediately switching to cricket umpiring, where the ferocity of his decision-making won him early plaudits.
Carpenter was not one for the genteel raised finger to signal the dismissal of a batter. “That’s fucking out,” he’d roar instead. He’d then point to the dismissed batter and then to the pavilion before adding “You can fuck right off.”
He was similarly brutal on bowlers whose appeals he turned down. “Don’t be a fucken dickhead,” he’d snarl. “Get back to your mark and bowl. Stop wasting my fucken time.”
The players loved Carpenter’s no-nonsense approach. 
“You knew where you stood,” Tim May once said. “I remember one time after I appealed for a bat pad chance, Woodworks (Carpenter) threatened to break my jaw. And fair enough too.”
Administrators were less enthused by Carpenter’s abrasive nature. As he worked his way up through Tasmanian umpiring ranks, he was constantly urged to tone down his abuse of the players. Or, at the very least, his swearing. They pointed out that if he was going to be on televised domestic limited overs matches, he would be subject to broadcasting regulations. 
“There was only one person allowed to swear on Nine’s cricket coverage,” Carpenter later recalled with a laugh in an episode of The Kookaburra’s Cackle on the ABC. “And that was fucken Chappelli.”
But Carpenter saw no need to change, and eventually the sheer quality of his decision-making saw him rise to the top of his profession.
He made his first appearance in an international fixture in December, 1994 when he umpired a one day match in Perth between England and Australia A. 
The England players were stunned by Carpenter’s umpiring style. When Paul Reiffel struck Graham Thorpe’s pad, Carpenter’s abuse of Thorpe could be heard as clearly as Reiffel’s appeal. “Pistol’s fucken gotcha, ya Pommie dickhead,” he roared, pointing Thorpe to the pavilion.
The England management lodged a formal complaint against Carpenter after the game, but match referee John Reid dismissed any allegations of bias. Reid pointed out that Carpenter had also called Tom Moody a ‘fucken Frankenstein freakshow’ when he gave the tall all-rounder out caught behind in the Australian run chase.
According to Jessica Kennedy’s fawning 2012 biography of Carpenter, You’ve Got To Give ’Em, the only negative feedback he got from Reid after that debut international was a reminder that ‘Frankenstein was the scientist. Tom Moody looked like Frankenstein’s monster.’
England, like most other nations around the world, soon grew to appreciate Carpenter’s style.
“He’d call you a hangdog cocksucker as he gave you out,” Mike Atherton later said. “But he rarely got a decision wrong. And, from my perspective, that was the important thing.”
In November 1996, Carpenter made his Test match debut when appointed to stand in the first Test between Australia and the West Indies at the Gabba ground alongside umpire Venkat. Carpenter also stood at the Adelaide Oval in the fifth Test of that series.
In both Tests, he made a number of close calls that television replays proved correct on every occasion. The Nine commentary team were also forced to apologise for his language on nine (9) separate occasions, including one time when he threatened to kick Mark Waugh ‘in the fucken nuts’.
After promotion to the National Grid Panel of International Umpires, Carpenter also began to appear as the designated independent umpire in overseas Tests.
He stood in the infamous second Test of the South Africa vs India series at Bloemfontein. It is alleged that he refereed a fist fight between Shaun Pollock and Sourav Ganguly in the umpire’s change rooms after the third day, a claim he remains coy about to this day.
For a decade, Carpenter reigned as one of the leading umpires in world cricket. He never stood in a World Cup final, however, due to the dominance of the Australian limited overs sides of the era and the requirement for neutral umpires. After Australia won their semi-final in 2007 against South Africa, a furious Carpenter confronted captain Ricky Ponting.
“Fuck’s sake, Punter,” he said. “Enough already, you selfish fucking prick.” Shaun Tait claims that Carpenter then threatened to slice Ponting’s hamstrings with ‘a fucken bread knife’, but both Ponting and Carpenter deny this.
On a 2009 episode of Rove, Carpenter was interviewed alongside his good friend, former national football goalkeeper and fellow Tasmanian, Anthony Konstantopolous. 
Carpenter began an anecdote in which he revealed that Konstantopolous often used to call Carpenter to ask his advice on how he handled certain home handyman situations. Carpenter told host Rove McManus that he’d now like to find out why.
“Anthony, mate,” Carpenter said, turning to his fellow guest. “They call you ‘the Cat of the Net’.”
Konstantopolous hesitated before replying. “They do, Dave?”
“Yeah, mate.” Carpenter then smiled and turned to the camera. “What does that even fucken mean?”
It wasn’t the first time that television audiences in Australia had heard Carpenter swear. But it would be the last. Immediately after the comment was made, the broadcast became temporarily inaudible and Carpenter was ushered off set.
However, he returned not half an hour later when Konstantopolous answered Rove’s traditional question of ‘Who would you turn gay for?’ with a nod off-screen to Carpenter.
Carpenter and Konstantopolous then exchanged a passionate kiss before the show cut to commercial. On an episode of 20 to One in 2018, their public coming out was voted Number 3 on ‘The Greatest Moments in Australian Television History’. (It came in behind Scott and Charlene’s wedding on Neighbours and a shoe being thrown at Prime Minister John Howard on Q&A.)
After the ICC demoted Carpenter from the Elite Panel Panel in May 2012 for ‘general performance reasons’, Carpenter retired from international umpiring. He and Konstantopolous began a radio quiz show in which they discussed important LGBTQ+ issues in between quizzing guests on the events of the week in sport.
In 2017, Carpenter announced on the show that he and Konstantopolous were to marry on the same date as the upcoming marriage equality plebiscite. When asked what he’d do if the vote went against equal marriage laws, Carpenter was typically blunt.
“I’ll fucken kick a dog,” he said. After backlash from PETA, Carpenter tweeted an apology:
‘Never fucken kicked a dog in my life and you know it, you PETArds.’
Two days later, he sent a follow-up tweet apologising to the intellectually disabled. He then deleted his account.
Carpenter was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2018.
— RR
  • Rove (Network Ten, 2009, Roving Enterprises)
  • You’ve Got To Give ’Em (Jessica Kennedy, 2012)
  • LGBTQUIZ (ABC Radio, 2013-present)
  • The Kookaburra’s Cackle (ABC Radio, 2014)
  • 20 to One (Nine Network, 2018)

Read More
This is an excerpt from my e-book Who’s Who in Australian Cricket, Imaginary Players Edition: A-E. There are nine other non-existent heroes of cricket discussed in the book.
You can purchase a copy from the Amazon Kindle Store
I’ll be back next Friday with a genuine first draft of something.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Dan Liebke

Every Friday, I go through my big list of cricket ideas, and churn out a first draft of something I've got in there. It won't be polished. It may not be interesting. I make no promises. But I'm going to throw something up and see what works and what (infinitely more likely) does not.

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