Haydn O’Connor – Umpire Operations Manager
“If we want a genuine funnel of umpires coming through, I think we need to change our language.”
In the past, the AFL have had a week dedicated to the thousands of men, women, boys and girls who take on the challenge of umpiring one of the most difficult sports in the world every weekend. To compliment this initiative, the VAFA would like to take this weekend to celebrate the people and achievements of our very own umpiring community.
The VAFA umpires are a group that is truly diverse based around the key pillars of integrity, respect and professionalism. Ranging from 14 years old to those in their 70’s, the VAFA offers opportunities for all umpires to achieve whatever their specific goals are. Partnerships with the SMJFL & Yarra JFL certainly form pathways for all those umpires who wish to take their careers to the next level.
This season, nine of the 32 AFL Field Umpires have in some way come through the VAFA system, showcasing the standard of our coaching and development. No doubt it is equal to that of the players who choose the Amateurs as their competition of choice. Across all disciplines we have 18 umpires with the VFL, again highlighting our drive to promote those with talent to achieve at higher levels.
Every Saturday, in our own VAFA competition as an example, on our Senior Field Umpires List, we have 17 umpires who have had time at minimum State League Level or have been appointed to Big V Representative Matches, one of the highest accolades in our system.
The competition demands the highest level of officiating, and so does the VAFA Umpiring Department, with coaching given to umpires online on Sunday evenings, and face to face sessions on Monday and Wednesday across all disciplines, these resources are the envy of other community competitions.
The people who make up the VAFA Umpires and VAFA Umpires Association are community leaders inside and out of football, and I urge all associated with the VAFA to celebrate these people not only this week but for rounds to come.
In the rooms post-match, you could meet one of Melbourne’s most credentialed QC’s, the lead singer of one of Australia’s most well-known metal bands, or a school captain of one of the VAFA’s associated colleges. We urge all umpires to be active participants on game-day and be part of the match day experience, from when they arrive at the venue to including any post-match activities.
Retention of umpires is an issue, but it is an industry issue, which both clubs and VAFAUA need to work together on, and I thank all VAFA clubs for their support in this area. This weekend, all coaches are asked to shake the hands of the officiating umpires at the coin toss as a showcase of the relationship between our umpires and our clubs.
With the leadership of the VAFA Board, help of the VAFAUA, the support of the VAFA administration and sponsorship of BJS insurance brokers, initiatives are being put in place to achieve short term and long term goals which include 100 female umpires every Saturday by 2021, and also having in place a High Performance Academy to continue our standing as the umpiring leader nationally.
Echoing the thoughts from the initial quote in this piece, the VAFA Umpires Round is a reminder to all in the Association to change the language in the way we review umpiring and celebrate the people and contribution these community leaders make to our game.