‘A dream realised’, is how field umpire James Strybos recalled stepping out for his AFL debut at the Norwood Oval.

Following his elevation to the AFL Rookies’ List in 2018 initially, James was promoted to the AFL Senior List ahead of the 2023 season.

For his top-flight opening act this year, he took charge of the GWS Giants v Hawthorn Round 5 (Season 2023) match in front of over 9,000 spectators, and was awarded Heritage Number 458.

James said, “It was very exciting and something I have been working towards for a very long time. On the day, it was kind of a dream realised, and obviously, then understanding that it’s also [the] start of a new journey.

“Being added to the list and debuting, it’s following in the history of all those before us. [It] comes with great responsibility. It was just a privilege to be a part of it, and the journey starts again and we continue going on now.”

James commenced umpiring with the AFL Brisbane Juniors in 2005. He continued to store valuable experience while progressing through the NEAFL and the QAFL umpiring ranks. He officiated in the NEAFL Grand Final in 2016, and in the QAFL Grand Final three years later.

Field umpire James Strybos (centre) (Image supplied by James Strybos / Image credit – AFL Photos)

In the interim, in 2017, James had debuted in the AFLW (Round 3, 2017, Brisbane v Collingwood at Southpine Sports Complex). He was the emergency field umpire for the AFLW Season 7 Grand Final in 2022 as well, and has 44 career AFLW matches to date.

Taking on the next challenge and improving his craft through self-reflection have been key motivating factors throughout James’ umpiring career.

Looking back on his experiences of umpiring across different State Leagues, and more recently being part of the AFL Rookies’ List, he said, “Each part of the journey has definitely influenced where we are now. They’ve all added feathers to my cap and strings to my bow.

“Each step has provided me with another level to my umpiring and the same now happens, being on the AFL List as a Senior umpire.

“It becomes about, ‘Alright, we’ve now got there, let’s keep developing. Let’s not just rest on what we’ve learned over the last number of years’.”


Congratulations, James, on your AFL debut. We wish you the very best for the season ahead.


Featured image – James Strybos (Photo by Dylan Burns / AFL Media)

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