The AFL Umpire roadshow landed in Queensland this week, with three AFL listed umpires touring schools and umpire training sessions within South East Queensland.
The Umpire Roadshow is an AFL initiative which enables elite level umpires to visit metropolitan and regional areas across Australia to promote umpiring and positive match day environments.
AFL Umpires Andrew Stephens (field) Chris Gordon (boundary) and Shaun Apted (goal) visited Sandgate High School and Park Ridge State High School, as well as two umpire training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, to give an insight into the elite level.
“It’s been about spreading the word about umpiring footy, planting the seed in some kids minds about it, and just giving them a glimpse of what we do,” Andrew Stephens said.
“We all started out playing the game or loving the game, but not everyone can reach the top level as a player. We chose to go down the path of umpiring, and hopefully we have been able to make the kids aware that this is a potential career path.”
It wasn’t just about talking the kids through what an umpire does, students at both schools got to roll up their sleeves and have a crack themselves, rotating between bouncing a ball, throwing a ball in from the boundary line, and judging a goal from the goal line.
“It’s been good to be able to teach the kids some goal umpire specific stuff. A lot of the kids didn’t know that half the ball was in, half the ball was out, so it was interesting to see their reactions and great to see them learn something about each area,” Shaun Apted said.
For Queenslander Andrew Stephens, who debuted at the elite level in 2014, this roadshow was also a homecoming.
Umpiring all began for Stephens with the Brisbane Juniors. From there, he went on to umpire the 2011, 2012, and 2013 NEAFL Grand Finals, before getting the AFL call up.
“After starting with the Brisbane Juniors, I couldn’t imagine I would end up here. I always dreamt of it, but it is pretty special to be able to realise that dream,” he said.
While all three were hopeful of recruiting a few more umpires to the ranks, Chris Gordon said there was more to it than that.
Even if some of them don’t go down the umpiring path, they will at least understand the role of an umpire a little more, so if they gain a little bit more respect out of that, it’s a good thing,” Gordon said.
By Andrew Wiles