AFLQ Road Test: Umpiring

We sent community footy writer, Beth Newman, behind the goals, ahead of Community Umpiring Round.

This year, we’re getting our community footy writer, Beth, to pull on the boots of some of the people that footy couldn’t do without, in the AFLQ Road Test.

Umpires have a tough job.

This weekend is Community Umpiring Round and I decided to kick off the 2014 Road Test series, by donning the orange and getting stuck in.

I’ve always had a healthy respect for umpires, particularly knowing how hard it can be to keep them in the system, but I wouldn’t say I’m overly knowledgeable about what is demanded of them.

First step was to get some sort of qualification – the online club umpire course.

There are a lot of components of this.

To start with – the Role of the umpire.

Having Honesty and Integrity – well, I’m a journalist, so tick that one off.

Protecting the head of players, stopping for sign blood and stop play in the vicinity of an injured player.

There is a lot more to it that just those three things, though.

The online component has five modules, all with assessable questions on positioning, decision-making, game management and specific content around each of the different type of umpire.

Elements of umpiring including awarding free kicks with confidence and handling conflict situations struck me as crucial – they are the strengths of the best umpires in the system, but the elements that don’t come straight to mind.

The most difficult part of the test involves putting cyber umpires in the right spots.

There are some very specific locations for umpires to stand, both in relation to the play and to each other, and this exercise gave me my first insight into the difficulties of the whistle blowers.
Boundaries need to be five metres away from the play, fieldies a kick away from each other and for a set shot, must be halfway between the kicker and the goal line.

It was that part of the test that made me realise how much umpires need to be aware of in a match, from U8s to AFL.

All of these intricacies I would never have picked up as a spectator.

With the theory part passed, I had to put my knowledge to the test, getting behind the goals for a school game.

First black mark (pun intended)– I lacked the requisite black pants for the role, something I was swiftly picked up on by our resident junior footy queen.

Nonetheless, I was unperturbed and determined to own the goals.

Wave the flags, point my fingers, look serious.  Can do.

Standing between the big sticks and looking out, the oval is gargantuan and I was overwhelmed by the hope that my forwards would be on the end of a shellacking.

I’m not sure that is the best mentality to have as an umpire, but that’s probably the least of my problems.

The first attack came, and hitting the post, my first in-game failure arrived. In the rush of the moment, I lost all memory of goal signals, motioning for a touch rather than the post.

No goal review here, so all down to my not always reliable eyes for decisions.

Side on in contests, under the flight, out of the way of the play, too much to think about.

I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone in a 90,000 strong MCG crowd, trying to make split second decisions that could change the fortunes of an AFL team, for better or worse, with millions watching at home.

I reckon I might have a knack for it, receiving a round of applause on my way out.

I had approached the task with trepidation, but goal umpiring, albeit for just a quarter, was actually really fun and a little bit of a rush.

That said, I don’t think Chelsea Roffey should be shaking in her fluoro green shirt any time soon.

Thanks to all of the umpires, from clubbies to volunteers, who run out in various shades of the rainbow to make footy happen.

Thank you for being patient, rational and focused.

Thank you for putting in time for training and improving, even though many might not realise the hard work you do.

And thank you for giving everyone the ability to watch and play footy around the country.

We couldn’t do it without you.

If you would like to  find out more about becoming an umpire, head to

Follow Beth on Twitter: @bethknewman

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