By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
Brisbane junior umpire, Jake Webb, is set to make his NEAFL umpiring debut this weekend during the Round 10 showdown between Sydney and Redland.
Webb, 18, received the call up on Monday from AFL Queensland State Umpiring Manager, James Waldorff, after a commanding officiating performance in the QAFL last weekend.
At the time, Webb was at the Fortitude Valley pool with the rest of the State Umpiring Academy, moments prior to a recovery session with the group.
Following the news, and with the rest of the group waiting to start the session, Webb was forced to keep it a secret until the group’s main session on Thursday night where it was formally announced.
“Duffy [James Waldorff] and I were just having general chat about the weekend. We had a bit of conversation and then he just dropped the bombshell,” Webb told aflq.com.au.
“He told me to keep it a secret until he announced it at training. I could only tell mum and dad about it. After I hung up, they were the first people I called.”
“I had the biggest smile on my face and you couldn’t wipe it off. It was a real shock because I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Webb began his umpiring journey, like most, as a hobby for a bit of pocket money. He was still playing football at the time with the Caboolture Lions.
“I realised once I got to Under-16s that my body size would get me further with umpiring than footy,” Webb said.
He started off as a club umpire but progressed through the ranks quicker than most. In 2014, Webb joined the AFL Brisbane Juniors umpiring core, where he remained until 2016 where he joined the State Umpiring Academy.
Webb made his senior QAFL umpiring debut as a 17-year-old in 2017 in Round 17 and has since officiated a handful of QAFL games.
But for Webb, the rapid seven-year rise has all been a continual learning experience.
“It’s been pretty fast. I’ve jumped through the ranks pretty quickly.”
“I got to the point where I’ve umpired with different people and I’d feed off them to continually improve and that’s how I have managed to progress.”
Saturday’s showdown between the fourth places Swans and tenth placed Bombers will be Webb’s first in the premier footballing competition in Queensland, but it’s not his first in the NEAFL arena.
Back in April, Webb officiated a NEAFL practice game between the Brisbane Lions and QAFL team Wilston Grange with the AFL-aligned Lions inflicting a sizeable loss on the Gorillas.
“That game went pretty well. The Lions, being reigning premiers, absolutely pumped Wilton Grange, and so it was so much easier to anticipate the play.”
Despite his youthful age, Webb has his sights firmly set at one day running an AFL game, drawing considerable inspiration from one of his former NEAFL contemporaries.
“I plan on taking it all the way to the AFL.”
“Obviously Alex Whetton was one I looked up to on the NEAFL list and then when he got drafted, I thought ‘I’m going to take his spot.’”
Coincidentally, Webb will don Whetton’s former number six umpiring shirt when he walks out onto Giffin Oval this Saturday – a metaphorical passing of the torch among AFL Queensland umpires past and present.