After 20 years umpiring, Chelsea Roffey will officiate her 300th game this Saturday when Collingwood play Port Adelaide at the MCG.

Chelsea’s milestone will place her in the company of just 8 other goal umpires to reach 300 games, and just 58 others across all three disciplines.

However, it’s firsts that have defined Chelsea’s career. Already the first ever female Grand Final Umpire—a feat that drew the attention of then Prime Minister Julia Gillard—Chelsea was the first woman to 100 and 200 games. Now, she’ll become the first woman, and mother, to umpire 300 AFL games.

At a celebration on Tuesday night AFL CEO Andrew Dillon spoke of “Chelsea’s dedication to the game and performance at the highest level.”

“On behalf of the AFL, I’d like to congratulate Chelsea and her family on this wonderful achievement and look forward to seeing her on the MCG on Saturday in what will be a memorable occasion for all.”

After entering the QAFL in 1999, Chelsea began her AFL career in 2004 in Brisbane, when she umpired the round 19 game between Brisbane and West Coast. 20 years, 16 finals and a Grand Final later, Chelsea is now the equal most experienced goal umpire on the AFL list, on par with Adam Wojcik who will notch up his own 300th on ANZAC day.

The class of 2004 proved to be a fruitful one, also producing Ray Chamberlain (382 games), Matt Stevic (473) and Simon Meredith (470). Were it not for the reduced games load of goal umpires, who rotate between the field and bench week by week, it’s not hard to imagine that Chelsea would have already umpired well beyond 300 games.

In the context of diversity, its said that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. Chelsea’s pioneering has undoubtably opened the door for the next generation of female umpires, modelling the ability to break into non-traditional domains. Chelsea herself was inspired by fellow Brisbanite and goal umpire Katrina Pressley (now Morris), who, in 1998, was the first woman to be appointed to an AFL game. Following Chelsea, Rose O’Dea in 2014, Sally Boud in 2016 and Taylor Mattioli in 2017. Eleni Tee’s ascension to the field umpire’s squad also occurred in 2017. This year’s Gather Round game between Brisbane and North Melbourne was of special significance, because it was the first AFL match with three female umpires, as Roffey, Boud and Mattioli made up the goal umpires’ panel.

AFL Executive General of Football Operations Laura Kane lauded Chelsea for her trailblazing efforts. “Chelsea has been a role model for many Umpires coming through out talent pathways. Her dedication and enthusiasm for supporting the next generation of female umpiring is a testament to her character,” said Ms Kane.

Having broken the glass ceiling and umpired to an elite standard, Chelsea’s efforts have been duly recognised and rewarded throughout her career. In 2012, Chelsea received the AFLUA’s most prestigious award for Goal Umpires, the Leigh Keen Shield, in recognition of both her on-field performance and off-field dedication to the association. This was followed by AFLUA life membership in 2013. In 2017, Chelsea was honoured at the AFL Past Premiership Player’s Club stamp ceremony, where each year, 20 premiership players, coaches, and officials are given commemorative Australia Post stamps.

Off the field, Chelsea is a writer, consultant, and public speaker, specialising in achieving high performance through diversity. Chelsea has been a guest at the APEC Women’s Leadership Forum in Beijing, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Additionally, she has completed a Winston Churchill Fellowship.

The AFLUA congratulates Chelsea on her outstanding achievement.

Article by Jackson Kerr

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