In an unprecedented achievement for Australian football in Queensland, four born-and-bred umpires have reached the ultimate goal of joining the AFL list for the 2023 season.
Field umpires Andrew Adair, James Strybos, Matthew Young and boundary umpire Ty Duncan have all been elevated to the AFL panel this year, the highest number of umpires from Queensland to have been promoted to AFL in the same season.
These elevations bring the total number of Queensland field umpires to five out of the 40 on the AFL list, which is the most Queenslanders ever appointed. Five boundary and three goal umpires will continue to officiate AFL games as well, making it a total of 13 Queenslanders on the AFL panel this year.
It is a dream come true for Aspley junior Andrew Adair who will umpire his first AFL game at Heritage Bank Stadium – in his home state – this Saturday night when the Gold Coast SUNS host Sydney Swans in the opening round.
“It’s still very surreal, it probably won’t sink in until we walk out, I’m just looking forward to getting out there and applying my trade,” he said.
Adair starting out umpiring for his local club, the Aspley Hornets, while playing junior footy.
“Once I got to Under 13s, I just started doing some club umpiring at Hornets for a bit of spare cash,” he said.
“I guess once you get to Under 16s you have to make the call whether you go to Under 18s colts footy and I got to the point where I realised if I was going to make it to any significant level it was probably going to be through umpiring.”
Now the 26-year-old is gearing up to officiate at the highest level.
It has been 17 years in the making for Jindalee Jags juniors James Strybos and Matthew Young who played footy as kids.
“James’ old man was a very good umpire, so he was in it before me, then I got into it as an opportunity for a bit of pocket money. It was my first job, and it just grew from there,” Young said.
“We had a pretty good program through the Brisbane Juniors and after a few years of senior footy we got called up in 2012 where I made my NEAFL debut and worked my way up through the ranks.”
Young spent three years umpiring NEAFL before making the move to Melbourne in 2015 to umpire in the VFL system.
“It has probably taken me a bit longer than I had hoped, last year was my eighth season in the VFL, but it’s going to be so worth the wait.”
Just 12 months ago an AFL call up felt far out of reach.
“I had only done one VFL final and when COVID hit I had a bit of time on my hands so my big focus was to knuckle down and give it one more big shot and if I didn’t progress it might have been curtains on my time,” Young said.
“Luckily, I had a good year and did the VFL Grand Final. I had a couple doubts, but I stuck at it, and it was probably the best decision of my life.”
It was a similar story for teammate, James Strybos after a string of injury setbacks. In 2012 he suffered a stress fracture in his foot and then again at the start of last year.
“I spent half the season out and I was tossing up whether it was ever going to happen, or whether I would just keep getting injured,” Strybos said.
“I came back and only had 10 weeks left of the season so I had to do everything I could to give myself a chance.
“The momentum built and mentally I changed how I approached umpiring, and it worked out well.
“I’m now a more calm, composed, and measured person and I just started to focus on what I could control and stopped worrying about the external noise that sometimes happens in football which allowed me to focus on what I needed to do.
“It was a pretty long journey with a few ups and downs but really exciting all the hard work has paid off not only for me but for the coaches everyone who’s supported me.”
To think it all started with a pie and a can of coke at the Jindalee Jags.
“I’d normally umpire two or three games, then do scoreboard and play my own game so it was good when they were giving out the old meat pie and a coke and then when they threw in a bit of a cash it was even more exciting,” he laughed.
Boundary umpire Ty Duncan also received the call up to the elite level after a successful 2022 season where he was selected to umpire both the AFLW and VFL Grand Finals.
Queensland High Performance Coach Chris Fawcett said this was a fantastic achievement not only for the individuals but for the Queensland Umpiring Team.
“These umpires have been identified as the best performing and most talented State League umpires for good reason and I’m elated to see their hard work has paid off,” Fawcett said.
“It’s a fantastic result for our AFL Queensland umpiring programs and shows they are up there with the best in the country.”
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List of Queensland umpires on AFL and AFLW panel
- Andrew Adair
- James Strybos
- Matthew Young
- Andrew Stephens
- Alex Whetton
- Ty Duncan
- Chris Delany
- Adam Reardon
- Nick Swanson
- Drew Kowalski
- Matthew Bridges
- Jessie Baird
- Tom Sullivan
- Cameron Manthey
- Sam Somerville
- James Strybos
- Sam Whetton
- Jacob Hudson
- Delsen Jones
- Madeleine Lum
- Will Morris
- Grace Wilkin
- Zac Mabb
- Darcie McGavin
- Belinda Stewart