Congratulations to Boundary Umpires Ben Fely, Nick Phillips and Jordan Russell, who umpired their first career AFL matches in Round 1 (2022).
With consistent CVs to their names, Ben (584), Nick (585) and Jordan (586) were promoted to the 2022 AFL List. They were proudly awarded AFLUA Heritage Numbers prior to their respective debuts.
Ben ran the line at the Accor Stadium, as Sydney Swans prevailed over GWS Giants 17.10 (112) to 13.14 (92). He mentioned about going through a range of emotions upon hearing about his debut, “I was so excited to be provided with this opportunity and to tell my family and friends. The nerves came later during the week.”
Despite having three NEAFL Grand Finals (2017, 2018 and 2019) and the 2021 AFLW Grand Final in his repertoire, the prospects of umpiring the AFL Sydney Derby were different.
“To calm myself down, I just stuck to my process and usual routine,” Ben said. “I also had the opportunity to grab a coffee before the game with family, which was exciting, as they had all come up from Canberra or down from Brisbane.”
Nick, who had umpired in the 2019 and the 2021 AFLW Grand Finals, marked his maiden AFL match in another high-octane affair. At a 38,000-strong sun-soaked MCG, Hawthorn completed a 20-point comeback victory over North Melbourne 11.12 (78) to 8.10 (58).
Reflecting on his debut, he said, “It is an honour to umpire football at its highest level. It’s something I’ve worked towards, and I was happy to achieve one of my dreams.
“I didn’t really calm my nerves going onto the field – just had a joke with the other guys. But still, nerves get to you.”
Jordan was the third debutant, and came with the distinction of having umpired four WAFL Grand Finals (2018 to 2021) and two AFLW Grand Finals (2019 and 2021).
In AFL Round 1, he officiated at the Optus Stadium, where Gold Coast rallied late to win 16.11 (107) to 12.8 (80) against West Coast.
Jordan revealed the message from his fellow umpires that helped him settle down before his debut. “Just to calm down, take that extra second with throws and composure, and don’t go looking to jump into the game – let it come to you,” he said.
“They braced me with how hard the running component and speed of the game would be, and not to go too hard early and burn myself out, as it was a common theme in their debut games.”
Well done, Ben, Nick and Jordan. We wish you the best for the year ahead.
Featured Image: Ben Fely during the 2022 AFL Round 01 match between the GWS Giants and the Sydney Swans at Accor Stadium on March 19, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)