“Breaking down the barriers – It’s about what brings us together rather than what sets us apart”. That’s the message from Dave Harris, current AFL field umpire and Sports Administrator of the Geelong Umpires ahead of Saturday’s ninth annual Encompass Cup, where a panel of umpires with varying disabilities will officiate the clash between Belmont Lions and Winchelsea Blues.

The Encompass Cup is an initiative that has gained national exposure in past years and highlights the contribution officials with a disability make to local footy.

When Ashleigh Lynch takes to the field every weekend as a boundary umpire it is with a passion for his role on match day. It’s a family tradition to umpire, following in the footsteps of his father William. “Being involved with the Geelong Umpires League has given me confidence and independence” says the 20 year old Lynch who completed his year 12 and recently obtained his L plates, much to the delight of his mum. “I feel a sense of belonging, the coaches are fantastic. Every weekend I am part of the team, its great fun!”  

On Saturday Lynch will take center stage in the Encompass Cup match between Belmont Lions and Winchelsea Blues in the GDFL. The senior match will be umpired exclusively by officials with a disability in a bid to highlight the contribution they make to local footy every week.

Lynch’s intellectual disability has not prevented him from developing his umpiring skills over the past years. Like many other umpires with a disability, Ashleigh officiates football matches every weekend. “We are very fortunate to have such an enthusiastic young man like Ashleigh involved” says Bradley Smith, Chair of the Geelong Umpires.

The umpiring team who will officiate the GDFL clash between the Lions and Blues includes Dave Frazer, Jess Crucetti, and Daniel Dorling, boundary umpires Rebecca De Been, Aiden Moyle, Ashleigh Lynch¸ Peter Nuessler and goal umpires Terry Maloney and Jake Baker-Brooks. Baker-Brooks, who has autism, has been waving the white flags for nine seasons. “This is a wonderful achievement, when we started the Encompass Cup nine years ago there were only 2 umpires with disabilities officiating on the day” says Smith.

On 27th of May, Encompass Community Services (Encompass) will sponsor the 9th Encompass Cup Football match at the Jetts Oval Winter Reserve, Glyn St, Belmont,  Encompass is a not-profit organisation that offer services to people with disabilities. A registered NDIS provider , 40% of Encompass’ employees have a disability, reinforcing Encompass’ commitment to providing universal opportunities for all in the community.  Encompass’ mission is to create awareness about the abilities of people living with a disability and the important contribution people with a disability provide to mainstream sport, whether it is on or off the field.  Elaine Robb, CEO of Encompass, will present the Encompass Cup to the winning team.

 The Encompass Cup is a joint initiative between the Geelong Umpires’, Encompass and the Geelong & District Football League. The cup brings together a panel of umpires with a variety of disabilities, ages and experiences.

Encompass is excited to see umpires like Ashleigh reach their goals. “Umpiring is something that everyone can be involved with. It helps people build people’s confidence, management skills and resilience. We invite anyone who wishes to be involved to contact us” says Smith.

 “We are proud to be involved in the annual Encompass Cup. People with a disability should have the same opportunities as anybody else. We are committed to ensuring that opportunities to play the game are accessible to all” says Harris.


Competition:           Geelong and District Football League

Game:                       Belmont Lions vs Belmont Lions

When:                       Saturday 27th of May at 2.10 pm seniors

Venue:                      Jetts Oval Winter Reserve, Glyn St, Belmont

The AFLUA is a proud supporter of Sportability and works in conjunction with the AFL, Apricot Consulting and Down Syndrome Associations around Australia to focus on Sport and Ability in our society.