Grand final boundary umpire Michael Saunders regards himself as the grand father of the young crop of AFL listed umpires he has enthusiastically readying themselves for the 2015 season.
North Sydney Oval was flooded with over 50 umpires last night from our community based umpires who umpire Sydney Football League matches to those preparing themselves for the NEAFL competition that is run from Darwin to Queensland to Sydney and Canberra and those listed as AFL umpires.
A rigorous warm-up was followed by a series of exacting skill drills with makeshift goal posts going up on the pristine oval. By no means a perfect practice scenario, but one that will have to do in the rugby stronghold.
Regardless of the conditions you could not fault the focus of the group who had come to train and be prepared for round one.
Saunders is entering his seventh year on the panel, Robert Taylor enters his 4th season. Field umpire rookie listed Liam Rowe is the third most experienced on the list. He is joined this year by Aaron Langdon who has accepted a rookie contract.
Rose O’Dea comes into her second season having moved from Canberra to Sydney as she takes a break after completing her Honours in Science and prepares for her PhD, to work at the University of Sydney as a laboratory technician.
The two newly listed, goal umpire Brodie Kenny-Bell and boundary umpire Dan Field-Read round out the youthful panel. Add to that the new NSW Umpires Manager, Damian Anderson and recently appointed AFL boundary coach Angus Heritage and AFL goal umpire coach, Geoff Milne and we have a group who will certainly need to bond together to get a good result.
Walking away from training I couldn’t help but feel that there is a willingness to learn and get better, a real enthusiasm that only a young group can bring with them and a commitment to each other to work for each other and to get it right.