With community football continuing to surge in popularity in Queensland and the AFL investing significantly into umpiring at grassroots level to keep up with the game’s growth, several key umpiring appointments have been made to ensure all is in readiness for a big 2023 season.
Nicola Stevens is the last piece of AFL Queensland umpiring department puzzle and builds out a strong off-field umpiring team. She has taken over the role of Umpiring Development Coordinator from Garry Dunne who was elevated to the newly formed Umpire Recruitment, Retention and Development Lead earlier this year.
An Umpire Coordinator role was also created and filled by Tom Calvert who will be joined by Umpire Administration Coordinator Chloe Webb and long-standing umpire Sam Bridges, who has come into the administrative side of the game as Umpire Development Manager.
The expanded team has some big goals for 2023 across umpire recruitment and retention. Here are their stories and how they’re going to make it happen:
How did you come into your role?
Garry Dunne: Realising I wanted to pursue a career in sport, I commenced studying a master’s in business administration in sports administration at Torrens University (completion set for end of 2023). I continued to be involved in boundary umpiring in the NEAFL and QAFL along with coaching SEQ junior field umpires, I was invited to take the Umpire Development Coordinator role in a casual sense with a view to interviewing for the full-time role, which I was successful in achieving in May 2021.
Sam Bridges: I was in the Umpire Development Manager role for AFL Tasmania for 4.5 years. That role was like my current role at AFLQ, based around the recruitment, retention, and development of umpires across Tasmania where we saw 30 per cent growth in numbers over my time in the role. I was approached to consider joining the AFLQ team at the start of 2022 – a new opportunity and a chance to make an impact in umpiring in a new state, something that was both exciting and a new challenge for me – hence the decision to join the team!
Tom Calvert: I have been involved in coaching and umpiring education in squash and have always been a footy supporter, so I wanted to be involved in the footy space to challenge myself and learn the strategies used in in bigger team sports and organisations.
Nicola Stevens: I was looking for a new challenge after completing my university degree, a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science with Honours. I thought this role would be a great opportunity to combine my knowledge of elite sport and my own experiences in umpiring at a high-performance level within netball.
Chloe Webb: Funnily enough, I don’t have any former umpiring experience. I completed my Sports and Events Management degree in Cairns with James Cook University and completed an internship with AFL Cairns, where I worked with the league doing match management. For 2.5 years prior to my commencement with AFL Queensland, I was Administration Coordinator with Sunnybank Rugby Union Club and my role consisted of many components including registrations, communication and marketing, sponsorships and administration for the club and worked closely with Queensland Rugby.
Sports Administration works the same in all sports, and through networking from previous roles, I was successful in starting my current role as Umpire Administration Coordinator in May 2022, and have hit the ground running since my first day!
Why are you passionate about umpiring?
GD: I have loved footy since I was a kid and my boys played from the age of seven with one still playing at Sherwood Colts this year. The other went into umpiring and I followed him through that journey and here I am now.
SB: I’ve been an umpire myself for the past 16 years and been through the junior, youth, senior, state league and AFLW system as a field umpire and found my passion for coaching and education of umpires through that time. I see umpiring as one of the most critical roles in ensuring the game of AFL at all levels is safe, inclusive, and available for all. I find it really rewarding when an umpire develops their skills and grows in confidence through their umpiring journey. I believe in my role at AFLQ, I can make a positive impact in the experience of every umpire whether they are there for the first time or have umpired for 40 years, I see an opportunity for us to ensure every person has a positive experience in things that we can control and continue to be the leaders across the country in umpire development.
TC: Umpiring is so crucial to any sport and plays an important role in ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all participants.
NS: Through my involvement in the Brisbane Lions Academy while at university I realised I enjoyed the camaraderie and culture of footy. Growing up as an umpire in netball and following the pathway from grassroots to high performance I always found myself drawn back to the challenge of umpiring.
CW: Football allows everyone to be involved in an inclusive environment no matter your role whether you’re a player, coach, team official, volunteer or spectator. I grew up playing football and other sports, and loved the joy the game brought me. It was an escape from personal life when things got tough, and an experience to make life-long friends and get involved within the community.
What are your goals for this year?
GD: Settle into my new role quickly, assist with the transition of the new Umpire Coordinators, work on strategies to enhance umpire recruitment and retention, both nationally and State based initiatives.
SB: We want to be leaders in the country around umpire education – more mentors, more coaches, and more opportunities for umpires to be seen and develop their skills. We want to grow our numbers and recruit more umpires than ever before by expanding our reach in schools and at clubs, but more importantly aiming to retain more umpires each year through a better experience and more education so they are engaged and want to stay. We also want to lead the country with our Women and Girls in Umpiring plan which identifies and assists more women and girls to be involved in coaching and mentoring (you can’t be what you can’t see) and increasing our percentage of women and girls in umpiring towards the national goal of 40 per cent female participation by 2030.
TC: Set up a database of resources that umpire coaches are easily able to access and use for their training sessions.
NS: I want to increase my knowledge of AFLQ Umpiring programs and get to know the umpires that dedicate their time to helping develop our game. This year I am hoping to build on the work that has already begun in the school umpiring space and increase engagement with our umpiring programs. I also hope to assist with delivering programs and developing strategies to increase the participation of women and girls in AFLQ umpiring and have fun while doing it.
CW: My goal is to streamline our administration processes and ensure all regions across Queensland are working the same way. This includes uniforms, umpire payments, registrations, and match day reporting. My key goal is to build the link between SEQ Umpires and our Regional Umpires.
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