Congratulations to Scott Jeffery, who has been appointed to officiate in his 250th match on Sunday 4th May, Geelong v Richmond at the MCG.
Perhaps it is fitting that the upcoming AFL round has been designated Community Umpiring Round and aims to encourage people to get involved in umpiring Australian Football at the grassroots level. Scott began his umpiring career at the grass roots level with the Southern Tasmanian Junior Football League and recollects that still some of his fondest umpiring moments go back to those early days.
“I remember umpiring U9’s games at 9am on a Sunday morning with ice on the ground still and then jumping in the shower fully clothed because you couldn’t undo your shoes laces because your hands were frozen………..and a firetruck pumping water off the ground that was located beside a swollen river before we could start the game……….cars parked around the boundary and tooting their horns after each goal………”encouragement” received from over the fence about my lack of ability to grow facial hair………getting invited back to the home clubs rooms for a drink post game………..road trips with your mates to umpire a game and the priceless banter that would pass the hours by on the road”.
A visit to the Eastern Football League Umpires Association on Wednesday night reminded Scott of the great times he had a local level and also reinforced the reality that umpiring numbers remains one of the game’s biggest challenges. “The guys and girls out at the EFL were terrific, full of encouragement for each other and an unquestionable passion for the game. They know how to enjoy each other’s company and make newcomers feel welcome. It was obvious that they work really hard to be the best they can be, but they just need more people to help out. Some umpires are doing 3 or 4 games a weekend”.
After umpiring a TFL grand final in 1997 he relocated to Melbourne in January 1998 to give his umpiring career the best chance of success. “When I look back to the decision to move, as a 20yr old kid from Tassie, it didn’t seem nearly as daunting then as it does now in hindsight……but its paid off”. He umpired in the VFL from 1998 until 2000, officiating in the 99’ and 00’ grand finals. He was then elevated to the AFL list in 2001.
Scott has persevered through the years and has racked up some wonderful achievements. He has umpired in seven finals, four NAB cup grand finals, an ANZAC day match and international games in London, Shanghai and Wellington.
When Scott reflects on some of his fondest AFL memories, they include “sharing my 100th game milestone with Stefan (Stefan Grun), and then being able to repay the favour for his, and sharing Schmitty’s (Justin Schmitt) 200th game milestone” who are close mates. He also reflects on the memorable “line in the sand game played between Hawthorn and Essendon” which was an incredibly intense game to be a part of and from which he learned an awful lot. Not to mention the privileged position of being a field umpire means that “you can see up close the champions of the game do their thing, such as Voss, Hird, Buckley, Judd, Brown, Riewoldt and Ablett, there are many more, too many to mention.”
Off field, Scott is nicknamed Rove by his peers, because of his similar looks and height, but this is not overshadowed by the huge amount of respect shown from not only his fellow umpires, but his coaches as well. The last few years has seen Scott rise within the ranks, being elevated to become a member of the leadership group.
Scott has been a loyal supporter of the association since joining the AFL list, his accolades include being voted most promising first or second year umpire in 2002, winner of the prestigious Bishop Shield and awarded his Life Membership in 2010. He stood as President in 2011 and 2012. Scott describes both years as President as “challenging on and off the field but incredibly rewarding and an eye opener to the goings on behind the scene.” This was a period where the Association was in the thick of CBA negotiations for the latest Agreement. Scott is proud to say that “the signed agreement was an extremely positive outcome for the Association, and one worth all the effort that we as a group put into it.”
We look forward to catching up with the 250 gamer next week to conduct a video chat about his well deserved milestone and distinguished umpiring career.