I have just spent a week in the AFLUA office completing various tasks from placing and packaging orders for Asics, updating website articles to helping organise and putting together the wonderful initiative that is the Fiona McBurney match day experience. I was taken to training on Thursday night to Ikon park where the Victorian based field, boundary and goal umpires train.

In my short time there, I was greeted by the new AFL umpires boss Grant Williams. Grant was newly appointed to this role and seemed like he has already fit in and enjoyed his time being around the game’s greatest officials. I then met Troy Pannell, the AFLUA President, who recently did his hamstring and unfortunately could be out for up to 4 weeks.

After that I got to meet Andrew Stephens who back in 2014 relocated from to Melbourne from Queensland to pursue his umpiring career and is now looking to umpire his first final this season. Another umpire I got to meet was AFL life member and 6 times Grand Final umpire Shaun Ryan. Shaun umpired with my dad back in the early 2000’s and has the opportunity this year to reach the 300-game milestone after coming off an outstanding 2017 season in which he umpired the Grand Final.

Nick Brown is also one other Field umpire I met. Nick was reappointed to the AFL list after being cut in 2016 but went on to umpire last year’s VFL grand final along with Andre Gianfagna.

Throughout the week, I also got to listen to The Officials Podcast, a great new idea developed by Chris Donlon along with Matt Stevic and Chelsea Roffey that dives into highly debated officiating and umpiring topics and there could be no better trio to do so with 6 Grand Final appearances between all of them.

I have learnt many things this week although the greatest thing would have to be that AFL umpires are devoted to not only developing themselves as umpires but also promoting the association and supporting all members of the umpiring community through organising end of season functions, volunteering to regularly visit local leagues to highly engaging in the Fiona McBurney match day experience every week. Best of luck to all umpires this season!

Article written by: Liam Dye, work experience student from St Bernards College

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