As someone who has been involved with football as a supporter since childhood and club volunteer since my teenage years, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s required when it comes to officiating in a match.

I’ve been involved as a football analyst/statistician with the Werribee Football Club in the VFL since 2005 and it’s during my time involved in state league football that my appreciation for umpiring grew.

An old friend of mine from high school worked his way through the grades to become a VFL boundary umpire; it was this that gave me a small insight as an insight into umpiring. As an outsider, I learned a bit about the fitness requirements and other areas of the caper that most football supporters would have no idea about.

Except for a couple of interleague matches where I had been a statistician, I had never actually worked exclusively with football umpires at any level, having been involved virtually exclusively at club level.

This changed in February of this year, when I commenced a new role with the AFL Umpires as Training/Administration Assistant.

After previously working as a media assistant with Moonee Valley Racing Club across two stints, where I edited the member magazine it was certainly a change from wearing a suit three days per week to wearing sports gear and runners.

I’ve also previously worked as media assistant with Netball Australia and this allowed me to further build my passion for netball; this year is my 11th year as a netball reporter since first covering the old National Netball League (Commonwealth Bank Trophy) in 2005 and every season of the ANZ Championship since it commenced in 2008.

I can’t thank my employment agency Matchworks enough and particular, consultant Stana Markovic for putting me up for this role after hearing about it from Chief Executive Michael Wasley.

In my role I work with head trainer Phil Watson to ensure during each training session on Tuesday and Thursday nights that the umpires have everything they need to train. Some of the tasks that I perform include making Gatorade, pumping up the footballs, mixing the lollies and setting up equipment for drills.

I’m also responsible for ensuring that both umpires and staff Australia wide have all their apparel, so not just match day uniforms but also training gear. My inbox has been full for the last few weeks as umpires, coaches and trainers have contacted me requesting their gear.

I take great pride when watching an AFL match seeing the umpires officiating on field because at some stage, I was the one who made sure they had their uniforms.

The administration side of things sees me ensuring that match day paperwork and ticketing etc are organised before each week’s round of matches. So when a match day accreditation pass is swiped or shown at a ground somewhere in Australia, it’s likely that I’ve organised it.

As an outsider coming into the AFL umpiring fraternity, one thing in particular that struck me was simply how down to all earth each umpire is and while they take their role in officiating our great game seriously, they are always up for sharing a joke or a chat.

Written by: Ben Carbonaro

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