Keen youngsters umpire one day, play the next

A NEW wave of field umpires are making their mark in the Bendigo Junior Football League’s under-12 competition.

It was umpire one morning and play the next day as Kohby Urwin, Deakin Andrews, Ben Sherwood and Logan Kilcullen were field umpires for under-12 games on Saturday morning.

The keen quartet play at under-16 level in the Bendigo JFL, but have also taken up the challenge of umpiring.

Umpire manager for AFL Central Victoria, Sharon McColl said a major goal of the under-12 umpire program was to have some under-16 players, boys or girls, be given a chance to officiate in matches.

“A training session with BUA Director of Umpiring, Dean Goodridge was held last Wednesday,” McColl said.

“Dean was impressed by the boys’ enthusiasm and their football knowledge.”

Last week’s session focused a lot on decision-making, signals, and rules.

Their first matches as field umpires were on Saturday.

A veteran of more than 550 matches as an umpire, Gary Russell is mentor for the under-12 umpiring group.

Gary teamed up with Kohby Urwin to umpire the under-12C  match between Eaglehawk and Maiden Gully YCW at California Gully.

The under-12A game between Eaglehawk and Golden Square at the same ground was umpired by Deakin Andrews and Ben Sherwood as Gary Russell was “shadow” umpire.

“All three of them umpired extremely well,” Russell said.

“Kohby had umpired some games previously, but it was first time for Ben and Deakin.

“There were some key points to work on, but they are learning and keen to improve.”

Russell said some of the biggest challenges for umpires, new or veterans, include positioning at contests and decisions on protected zones.

“At under-12 level it’s really important to explain decisions and they did so.”

After such a long time umpiring, Russell had contemplated taking a break this season.

“I still enjoy the challenge of umpiring, but also the opportunity to help others learn the caper or to improve their skills.”

Further south, Logan Kilcullen marked his umpiring debut in the under-12B match between Castlemaine and Quarry Hill at Wesley Hill.

“The skills they learn and develop as umpires will help in playing football, but also in so many other areas such as school and work,” said McColl.

“This is a great initative by the Bendigo Junior Football League, Bendigo Umpires Association, and AFL Central Victoria.

“Steamatic has kicked in to be major sponsor of this under-12 umpire group for the past three years.

“Without their support it would not be as easy to recruit and train up and coming umpires,” McColl said.

“We have a group of seven at the moment, but are keen to take on more who would like to develop their skills as an umpire.”

Boys and girls keen to be involved can contact Sharon McColl at AFLCV on 0418 569 394.

The Bendigo Junior Football League is one of the biggest in country Victoria and was the first step on the pathway for many to the AFL, playing in the Bendigo FNL or various leagues around the state.

The same applies for the BUA in which several began as boundary or field umpires and have now progressed to be making decisions and blowing the whistle in the big league.

Written by Nathan Dole.