By Ant Wingard
Queensland may not have a team competing in the AFL Women’s Grand Final for the first time this year, but Sunday’s blockbuster at Adelaide Oval will still have a dash of influence from the sunshine state.
On Tuesday, NEAFL Goal Umpire Matt Bridges was announced as one of the umpires appointed to this year’s AFLW Grand Final – a reward for a string of consistent performances throughout the 2019 AFL Women’s season.
In doing so, Bridges will become the second Queensland umpire to have officiated an AFLW Grand Final following Andrew Adair, who officiated last year’s Grand Final between the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions at Whitten Oval.
Ahead of this week’s opportunity to officiate in the goals at one of the sport’s grandest stages, Bridges was unfazed and remained coy about the whole experience.
“It seems just like a regular training week. To me it’s just another game,” Bridges told aflq.com.au.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel a few times to get a bit of experience so that was good. I’m feeling pretty confident.”
Bridges, 26, began umpiring in 2010 as a field umpire, but soon found his calling between the sticks.
A well-tenured NEAFL umpire, Bridges had notched 53 games of state league football and in 2017, officiated the NEAFL Grand Final between Brisbane and Sydney on the Sydney Cricket Ground in the same year he was awarded the 2017 NEAFL Goal Umpire of the Year Award.
He was named as the emergency for the 2018 NEAFL decider between Southport and Sydney but has continued to hone his craft to sustain his place as one of Queensland’s top officiators.
Bridges said improvement throughout the early portions of 2019 has been a result of his dedication away from training and the learnings he has taken from array of perspectives throughout the AFLW season.
“I’ve done a few extra sessions on the weekend outside of our normal Tuesday and Thursday training sessions. I’ve focused on the basics a lot more,” he said.
“It has been good to have four different observer which means I get a range of different perspectives.
“Shaun Apted (current AFL goal umpire) really focuses on just doing the basics really well, David Dixon (AFLW Goal Umpire Coach) really looks at everything from a more general perspective and to also have had Michael Craig (AFL goal umpire), who really focuses on the one-percenters and gives me really detailed feedback, has been great.”
The 2019 NAB AFL Women’s Grand Final will be played between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton Blues at Adelaide Oval, this Sunday at 1:00pm AEST.