COMMUNITY Umpiring Round is a state-wide initiative being marked by all AFL Central Victoria football-netball leagues this weekend.
Region general manager for AFLCV, Craig Armstead said the round was an important date on the season calendar.
“Umpires are a critical element of community sport,” Armstead said.
“Unfortunately this year we had less people register to umpire than we had in 2021.
“Sadly, that trend is the same across Australia.
“This shortfall places additional requirements on our club volunteers who have to find people to officiate as ‘club umpires’.
“That is why our Community Umpiring Week is such an important initative.”
Armstead urged fans to watch the umpires in action this weekend and appreciate their contribution to matches.
“It is also a timely reminder to all to everyone to respect umpires in all community sport.
“Umpiring is a difficult role, and every umpire makes mistakes, in the same players and coaches do.
“There is no excuse for disrespecting or abusing any umpires,” said Armstead.
“Umpiring is a great way to make some money while exercising.
“Having been a football umpire I can attest to the great friendships you form, and the skills it taught me, which I have applied to my personal and professional life.”
The Bendigo Umpires Association has a membership of more than 220 this season and officiates in leagues across central and northern Victoria.
AFLCV umpire manager Sharon McColl said the umpires are from a diverse range of backgrounds, and age groups.
“The core group in Bendigo train on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Weeroona Oval,” said McColl..
“Those sessions are aimed at fitness and coaching of umpires, whether they be field, boundary or goal.
“A training session is run at Bridgewater on the first Wednesday of each month for umpires from the Loddon Valley and North Central competitions.”
The BUA’s coaches for the 2022 season are Dean Goodridge, field; Matthew Vitiritti, boundary; and Paul Bauer and Paul Martin, goal.
“Ages of our umpires are from 12 to 72 and there are plenty of social aspects from being involved.”
Reasons why umpires have taken on such a challenging role are many and varied.
For some it’s a pathway to the highest level possible, a feat umpires such as John Howorth, Tim Lougoon, Matthew Vitiritti and others have done; for fitness, some extra pocket-money, or being involved with a game they love.
McColl said the BUA continued to work at building stronger relationships with clubs.
“In the past two seasons in particular, Birchip Watchem and Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers have had boundary umpires available for matches.
“Both of those clubs now have a group of younger players who run the boundary for the senior match and this as a weekly part-time job.”
McColl said rule changes and interpretations were a challenge for all umpires, whether they be first-year or a 500-plus game veteran.
The crackdown on player dissent with an umpire’s decision, led by the AFL, was welcomed by the BUA hierarchy and leagues.
“Taking the abuse out of the game, especially visually, has to be good for the game,” McColl said.
“Every umpire is someone’s Dad, Mum, Brother, Sister, Nan, Pop, Cousin or Friend.
“All umpires want to be a part of the game and umpiring is a big part of footy.
“It could not be run in the same manner if our umpires did not head out there each week to adjudicate, whether it be senior, reserves, under-18s, or under-12s.”
McColl said football umpiring can help develop many skills, especially for youngsters, no matter their career pathway.
“Being able to learn, understand and apply rules and regulations, and understanding and adjudicating conflict resolution are some of the skills umpires have and develop.
“Reliability and punctuality, teamwork, developing leadership and communication skills, keeping fit and a healthy lifestyle are some of the many advantages from being an umpire.”
The BUA is always keen to welcome recruits, whether they have umpiring experience or not.
If you would like to take up umpiring, join in a BUA session on Tuesday or Thursday from 5.30pm at Weeroona Oval in Napier Street, Bendigo, or contact Sharon McColl at AFLCV headquarters.
Written by Nathan Dole.