In 2008 an idea was submitted to the VAFA Board from Williamstown CYMS past player and coach Dene McLeod, that our community should recognise the contributions of the umpires to the game and dedicate a round to them. This was approved and every year a round is set aside to focus and appreciate the efforts of our umpires.
To focus on the umpires we have had various ceremonies to highlight them for the round including a photo on the front cover of the Amateur Footballer, coaches and captains shaking hands before the game and even a guard of honour before the game to clap them onto the ground. The VAFA believed that we should do more and it was agreed that we reward them financially by doubling their pay for the round.
This gesture is just a small way the VAFA can thank all our match officials for their continued devotion to the Association and will hopefully encourage the retention of umpires in years to come. The VAFA and our clubs always endeavour to provide the best support and amenities to our umpires. The importance of looking after our umpires cannot be overstated and we will continue to nurture their development and encourage them to be involved in our competition for as long as possible.
In a press release VAFA General Manager of Football and Umpiring Brian Goodman said, “The VAFA pride ourselves on the opportunities afforded to our umpires; whether that be the extra coaching they receive, the chance to enter elite pathway programs or simply providing training resources that are easy to access. We strive to make our umpiring talent reach their potential.”
The VAFA have had incredible success both in the past and presently in developing umpires that have reached the highest level. Current AFL field umpires Chris Donlon, Simon Meredith, Leigh Fisher, Jordan Bannister and Robert O’Gorman, and boundary umpires Damien Cusack and Michael Saunders all spent time officiating in the VAFA. Chris, Simon and Michael have reached the ultimate officiating in AFL Grand Finals.
VAFA Umpires are already the best paid across all of the metropolitan Melbourne competitions and there are also plans to invest further in the development of an Umpire Academy. The VAFA is at the forefront of developing the skills and providing the best environment for umpires in local football. On Tuesday nights at Sportscover Arena we conduct training for 30 young umpires from the South Metro Juniors. Senior VAFA umpires coach these young umpires who aspire to become senior umpires in the future.
Many of the readers of this column would be amazed of the talented youth who have joined the VAFA and are umpiring in the Premier Sections. In the past five years we have had over ten teenagers field umpire at that level with six going onto the VFL. For many of our umpires this is not a hobby but a serious professional pathway that could result in a full time career. As a result we have a responsibility to provide the best coaching and facilities to allow these umpires to progress
It is important to acknowledge the clubs who partner the VAFA umpires in hosting training for our members who live and work in the north and west of Melbourne. Fitzroy have generously offered their facilities for training on a Wednesday night and the same at Werribee. Sportscover Arena is not easily accessible for everyone and we thank these clubs for allowing our umpires use of their facilities. Next year we hope to expand this out to the east.
The CY’s will again hold formal celebrations in their home match against Old Geelong. At other VAFA grounds, umpires will shake hands will all competing senior players prior to the commencement of matches and many clubs will invite the umpires into pre-match lunch functions to speak about umpiring. Let’s take this lead and support our umpires all year round as they are major contributors in making the VAFA the leading community sporting competition in the country.