On the evening of Saturday November 11, many of Australia’s finest First Nations athletes, officials and administrators gathered for the reconvening of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sports Awards. AFLW Goal Umpire Josh James was among them, having been nominated for the Sports Official of the year.

Josh James with Cathy Freeman

The awards had not been held for twenty years until former Essendon footballer Nathan Lovett Murray re-established them this year. Held at the Olympic Room within the MCG, highlights included Cathy Freeman receiving the National Lifetime Award, Australian cricketer Ash Gardiner winning the National Sportsperson of the Year Award and Paddy Mills Father, Billy, receiving the Award for National Sports Competition of the Year in recognition of the national basketball tournament his group organises. This tournament involves the best basketballers from communities as remote as Thursday Island having a local tournament and then selecting the best basketballers represent their regions in the National Tournament.

The National Sports Official of the Year was won by Jacqui Dover who is referee in the National Basketball League and WNBL. Josh congratulated Jacqui on winning the award and was very pleased to be recognised for his efforts that have seen him umpire in WA, the Northern Territory and Victoria. Such is his dedication to umpiring that Josh and his wife Sian, also a goal umpire, moved from Darwin to Melbourne in pursuit of an opportunity at the AFL level. Promoted to the AFLW list for Season 8, Josh, was thrilled with the opportunity to umpire eight AFLW games this season. A Noongar man, Josh was especially proud to umpire a game in front of his family and friends in Western Australia.

Josh with winner Jacqui Dover

As well as striving for excellence in umpiring, Josh designed the Indigenous tops worn by the AFL umpires in Sir Doug Nicholls round. Following in the large footsteps of Glen James, Josh is only the second Indigenous umpire to be involved in AFL Football. Given that Glen retired in 1986, that’s too big a gap and Josh is hoping to blaze a trail for more Indigenous umpires to follow. AFL General Manager Umpiring Lisa Lawry and AFLUA CEO Rob Kerr were in attendance and both look forward to the awards being held again next year in Melbourne before they find a new host city in 2025.



Article by Rob Kerr

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