By the time you have amassed 150 AFL games including an AFL grand final, you could be excused for thinking that you had seen it and experienced it all. Not so for Chelsea, her milestone match between St Kilda and Brisbane in Wellington, New Zealand threw up a number of firsts that add to the uniqueness of the event.
While the sport of AFL football is new to New Zealand it has generated fanatical supporters already. A group of indigenous New Zealanders had their bare upper bodies painted, reflecting their passion for St Kilda and Nick Reiwoldt. “The wind chill factor meant I had several layers of clothing on and these guys were just right into it,” exclaimed Chelsea. So much so she was seen prior to the game taking photos of the guys.
The team of umpires and coaches landed in Wellington a couple of days out from the game so the goal umpires and coach Rod Davies took a drive through the country the day before the game, stopping for lunch in Martinborough. “It gave us the opportunity to get together and spend some really valuable time together, which we would not otherwise have had. The hills and wine region was lovely to experience.”
The Mexican wave was a first, during the first quarter when the crowd became a little restless. One eyed supporters soon got the vibe and got into the game when the scoreboard showed young kids in the crowd after each score imitating the goal umpire’s signal. The spectator with the best signal received a prize. “I looked up to check the scoreboard was correct and finally saw what the crowd was getting into. Craig Willis gave timely commentary during the game to keep the crowd up to date with what was happening on the ground as well.”
The best “first” was left to last. Chelsea was applauded by the St Kilda team and its supporters on the aeroplane on the way home. Rumour has it that St Kilda player Jack Steven got onto the inflight speaker system and congratulated Chelsea on her milestone.
Chelsea reflected on her milestone, “I was thrilled to do one game and when I first stepped out it was a great buzz and a huge privilege, I remember saying to myself, how good is this! I never dreamed I would reach 150 games. I am extremely thankful to my coaches and colleagues for their support to enable me to do what I do and I am very grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had through umpiring AFL footy.”
Well done Chelsea.