Andre ‘Gia’ Gianfagna umpired his first AFL game in 2018 in round 4 – North Melbourne v Carlton in Hobart. Prior to his umpiring career, Gia was a rookie listed player with Melbourne, before joining the Northern Blues where he co-captained their VFL side for 2 years. He turned to umpiring in 2014 with a year at the Eastern Football League before joining the VFL in 2015. He umpired 45 VFL games, his highlight being the 2017 VFL Grand Final, before his promotion to the AFL in 2018.
This year has been a bit of a whirlwind with Gia having lived in Queensland, Sydney and a few weeks in Cairns, since departing Melbourne on 23rd June. Like many umpires, he has made sacrifices and has taken leave from school in term three to fully commit to umpiring which has taken some pressure off with the condensed rounds of football.
Escaping a Melbourne winter, Gia has found hub life easy to adjust to with the warm winter days and being able to be around and get to know other umpires. However, the warmer weather hasn’t bought him much joy on the golf course where he has lost form, perhaps from playing too much?
Having co-captained a VFL side, Gia understands the notion of leading by example and his team first attitude is one part of his game he is especially proud of. He also celebrated his first final, a career highlight, when he officiated the Brisbane v Richmond match in week one of the 2020 finals. He admitted it was amazing to be recognised in what has been a pretty difficult year for all, but he was proud to be able to get out and perform at a high level and represent the group as best as he could.
The transition from playing to umpiring has its obvious benefits. It’s physically less demanding due to there being no contact, however it is mentally much more demanding as you are required to concentrate for 120 minutes and everything you say and do is assessed and monitored. With players, you get to rest on the bench and most generally just play on instinct.
In round 13 this year, Gia got to umpire alongside two other ‘player to umpire pathway’ umpires Brent Wallace and Leigh Fisher when they umpired the round 13 clash between and Adelaide and Geelong on Sunday 23rd August at Adelaide Oval.
For umpires doing a difficult job, Gia’s advice is to enjoy your experience as much as possible and don’t put pressure on yourself as it doesn’t help your performance. He loves being a field umpire because you get to do a physically and mentally demanding job you love with your mates, who are supportive both on and off the field.
Judging from the many photos and videos from the sunshine state, Gia has certainly enjoyed his trips to the beach, shopping with Nate and making the most of a challenging season. No doubt he is looking forward to catching up with family and friends back in Melbourne on his return.
Well done Gia on your 50th game milestone and your first final.