NEAFL umpires on the rise

By Beth Newman

 Bundaberg teen Steph Moller has her sights set on being the next Chelsea Roffey.

Moller, 16, is already a NEAFL goal umpire and has just been selected to umpire in the NAB AFL Under-16 National Championships in June.

The youngster has been umpiring since she was eight and said the hardest thing about being in the goals was staying focused, particularly in lopsided matches.

“In a closer game, you’re always switched on because you can’t afford to make mistakes but if you have a really one-sided game you get so switched off at times, it’s like, “No, stay focused,’.”

Moller said her umpiring highlight came last year, when she goal umpired a NEAFL curtain-raiser at Metricon stadium, with AFL umpire Troy Mavroudis.

“We went up to go and have a look at the goals and coming out from underneath all the seats to a completely empty stadium was just the weirdest feeling,” she said.

“There’s no way to describe it. Like, I’d been on the Gabba before playing Auskick but I’d never been out there to umpire on it.

“It was completely awe-inspiring.”

Moller said she had been on the end of a few sprays from players, but it doesn’t really bother her.

“I get players give me sprays all the time,” she said.

“I actually really enjoy it because up home, everybody knows that I will not change my decision for nothing so they don’t’ even bother to argue with me anymore.

“It’s really great coming down here because you’ll get people that will argue with you…but by the end of the game they give up.”

Moller travels from Bundaberg each week to umpire in the NEAFL, with her mum, Sharon.

“Mum can’t wait til I get my license,” she said.

The determined youngster has put no limits on her umpiring career, aspiring to be the youngest girl ever to umpire an AFL Grand final.

Field umpire, Kayne Nund, has also been appointed to the under-16 Championships, in only his second year of umpiring.

Nund played footy for Zillmere, Sandgate and Aspley, before deciding to join the umpiring rank, inspired by the success of former Carlton and Essendon player, Jordan Bannister.

With a lengthy playing background, Nund said the transition to umpire was made a lot easier with his knowledge of the game.

“It definitely helps with reading the game and reading the players,” he said.

“You appreciate their frustration, being in that same position but, on the other hand, you have a better appreciation for the laws and the way they are and the tough job umpires have.”

Nund said players were generally reasonably respectful towards umpires, but there was still work to do.

“I think there is respect but I also think that we need to maintain that and improve that,” he said.

“They’re (umpires) a good asset and play an important part of the game.”

“If we can continue to show that respect as we would to anyone, we would maintain the people we’ve got, as well as encourage new participants.”

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