The following article is from the AFL website.

Aspiring junior umpire, Fletcher Dandy, received a special visit from three of his idols at the Royal Children’s Hospital, as AFL umpires Ray Chamberlain, Matt Stevic and Nathan Williamson stopped by with a unique gift.

The nine-year-old from Horsham was set to take part in the on-field celebrations for Community Umpiring Week at the MCG on Saturday night when he unfortunately suffered a setback to his health, meaning he could no longer participate.

Instead of missing out, the AFL Umpiring team decided to take the celebrations to Fletcher, paying him a visit and presenting him with a signed AFL umpire’s top – complete with every signature from the elite umpire list.

A truly brave and resilient young boy, Fletcher was diagnosed with Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome (FIRES) disease when he was just four years old. The incredibly rare disease only affects approximately 200 children in the world. Five years later in March this year while getting a check-up, he was also diagnosed with leukemia – completely unrelated to FIRES. It is believed he is the first person in the world to have both diseases.

Although he is unable to play contact sport, Fletcher is footy and umpire obsessed, constantly playing pretend games on the street and keeping score against himself. He’s also a massive Cats fan and his favourite player is Patrick Dangerfield.

Fletcher’s father Simon Dandy – a local umpire himself who has notched up 110 games as part of the Wimmera Mallee Umpires Association – said his son received a huge thrill from the visit.

“He just loved it, his face when they came through the door was priceless, I don’t think he could believe it,” Simon said.

“He was really looking forward to walking out on the MCG ahead of the Richmond v Bulldogs game and having that incredible experience, so when we realised he wasn’t able to attend, it was upsetting.

“I’d like to sincerely thank the AFL and the AFL umpiring team for visiting Fletcher and bringing a piece of the celebrations to us.

“I’ve recently taken up umpiring after playing footy and I absolutely love it. My 13-year-old daughter Kirrily has also started boundary umpiring and I’m pleased she’ll be able to take part in the activities on the MCG.

“We’ve formed a really strong connection with the Wimmera Mallee Umpires Association and the support we’ve received from this community has been incredible and it means the world to our family.”


Umpires Matt Stevic, Ray Chamberlain and Nathan Williamson also met Fletcher’s family including dad Simon, mum Samara and sister, Kirrily. Picture: Sarah Morton/AFL Photos

AFL umpire Nathan Williamson said he was delighted to visit Fletcher and present him with a shirt.

“As soon as we heard Fletcher wasn’t able to participate on-field anymore, we wanted to do something special for him so he could still enjoy and be part of Community Umpiring Week,” Williamson said.

“Visits from AFL umpires when I was a junior in WA was an absolute highlight of the footy season, so I’m rapt we can bring this experience to Fletcher.

“It was wonderful to meet him and his family and see the smile on his face. He’s such a brave and resilient young boy, and we hope he’s able to return home soon so he can keep kicking the footy and umpiring back home in Horsham.”

Celebrations for Community Umpiring Week take place this week during Round 9 of the 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. During the week the AFL and broader football community come together to recognise the invaluable contribution and role umpires play in Australian football, create awareness around umpiring pathways, and promote respect for the men, women, girls and boys who officiate matches at all levels of footy around the country

If you’d like to know more about umpiring and how you can get involved visit:

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