How do we separate the score review system from our elite performers, the goal umpires? This is the vexed question the AFL needs to grapple with as the score review comes under extreme pressure from key stakeholders.  Coaches, players, commentators and supporters are becoming increasingly frustrated with the apparent inequities in the system.  General Manager Football Operations, Steve Hocking ticked off two controversial score review decisions in the Richmond v St Kilda match saying that the score reviewer had more camera angles and better vision than that of the broadcaster in making the correct decisions on Sunday.  Then 24 hours later the AFL reversed one of these decisions. The goal umpire was correct!  Sadly, the crowds at games, who appear to have a limited understanding of the process take their frustrations out on goal umpires and umpiring in general at games.

Unfortunately, it is the goal umpires who are “left out to dry” when in more than 99% of decisions referred for review, they initially made the correct call. Goal umpires need to be supported in this process in the public arena. Surely the ball flicking an opponent’s fingers 15 or more metres out from goal cannot be put down as a goal umpire error?

Indigenous Round kicks off with new shirts.  Two young aboriginal women have designed the field umpire shirts that will be worn in games this round to celebrate the Sir Douglas Nicholls Indigenous round.  The former Worawa Aboriginal College students, Marianna Gurruwirri and Zephaniah Neil designed the strip.  The front of the shirt designed by Marianna represents land and aboriginal culture.  The back designed by Zephaniah represents, water and the Torres Straight Islander communities.

Congratulations to our milestone achievers this weekend.  Matt Tomkins reached his 150th game in a record fast time.  Matt who hailed from the Essendon District Football league, like many of our current umpires, commencing in 2005.  Six years later he umpired the 2011 VFL grand final, was appointed to the AFL in 2012, and umpired his first AFL grand final in 2014 backing it up in 2015. Matt has umpired 14 finals, an average of one for every 10.7 games umpired which is right up in the elite category.

Michael Barlow umpired his first AFL match when GWS played Essendon on Saturday night at Spotless Stadium.  Michael became the 578th boundary umpire to officiate in the VFL/AFL. 

Originally from Canberra, Michael umpired the 2016 and 2017 NEAFL grand finals and was awarded the NEAFL boundary umpire of the year in 2017.  Michael has undertaken a rigorous training program to get to the level required to umpire AFL football.  He, like a lot of younger umpires, packed up his “stuff” and moved to Sydney to follow his football dream.  When we contacted Michael today and asked about the game he replied. ”It was amazing!  I tried to keep it low key all week but on Thursday and Friday my boundary colleagues from around Australia started messaging me and wishing me well.  It became a crazy week.  My family arrived from Canberra and I had a wonderful experience. Now I have a six-day break to recover and go again on Friday night.  That will be another amazing experience.“  Congratulations Michael.

It was great to see our Adelaide based trainer Miles Wilson walk out onto Etihad Stadium on Friday night looking after our umpires.  Miles has been an institution in Adelaide for more years than he would care to remember.  AFLUD property steward, Ben Carbonaro helped Miles to navigate Etihad Stadium prior to the game.

Ageless life member and association stalwart, Murray Williams is living back on the Gold Coast with his wife Cleo.  Murray has developed a great link with AFL club Broadbeach and this year is the umpires escort on match day.  If only those young umpires knew a little bit about who their escort really is?

While chatting about former umpires, a little Birdy tells me that two former goal umpires have taken up the whistle as field umpires on their weekends off.  Luke Walker and Courtney Lai are both having a run around in suburban competitions to keep fit and support umpires.  Great work fellas.

It’s a pity that the AFL didn’t show some common sense and see the Willie Rioli tap on Ray Chamberlain’s backside for what it was, a human reaction to a situation that was handled very well between two men in a game of footy.  We are not that precious!

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