Every Tuesday and Thursday night, there’s always a familiar face at AFL Umpires training down here in Melbourne.

Head trainer Phil Watson is the man who makes sure each and every umpire is looked after when it comes to massage along with any other medical needs requirements they may have.

Watson umpired in all three disciplines including 78 games at AFL level and was an emergency goal umpire for the 1991 Grand Final.

With a new apparel sponsor in BLK coming on board this year, Phil and this correspondent have spent countless afternoons and nights packing bags full of gear ready to be sent interstate

“It’s been great, just taken the pressure off (me) with a lot of running around (looking after) individual’s needs,” said Watson.

“E-mails from interstate umpires and trainers with all the new gear this year, it’s been great being able to spread the load getting it all organised.”

Since coming on board as an AFL Umpires trainer after spending time with the VFL in a similar role, Phil has noticed significant changes.

Not just changes in sports medicine techniques and products, but also with umpiring specifically.

“I think football wise, umpiring wise is the amount of coaching (provided); I think it’s fantastic,” said Watson.

“The career paths that young umpires have, I know when I started it was basically where’s a whistle (or) the flags and off you go but the training now, video review and fitness is just so much more important.

“It’s a whole package now and I think it’s fantastic.”

One particular element of the video review that has come into play is the option of a score review system for goal umpires to use in matches.

Back when Phil goal umpired, it was a case of having to back your own judgement.

“There was no fall back, the only time you ever saw it (scoring error) was if it was on the news or Saturday night replays.

“You would see something and you would go ‘I don’t know if I saw that” then we’ve had the advent of pay television/football channels.

With so many cameras at each match these days, Phil isn’t sure if he would be able to officiate under so much scrutiny.

“Every angle, every decision is scrutinised and watched so that’s quite a different challenge now.

“I think I had a pretty good time, I don’t know if I want to be in this scenario now where everything is checked, and it’s pretty tough.” 

Written by Ben Carbonaro

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