Round 3 of the South Metro Junior Football League (SMJFL) season saw the league’s 25 member clubs celebrate the contribution umpires make to the game with the Monarch Community Umpire Round.
This annual event is celebrated across the country at grassroots and elite levels to give thanks to those who put in hard work on the boundary, in the goals and on the field.
There was plenty of surprises in store for Sunday, with two AFL stars visiting Mentone Reserve.
AFL Umpire Ray Chamberlain, well known as ‘Razor Ray’, was on hand to umpire the Under 13 Mixed Division 2 St Bedes / Mentone Tigers AFC and East Malvern JFC.
Ray was accompanied by St Kilda Football Club midfielder Jack Billings, who took up the role of goal umpire on the day, along with the Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy’s very own India Isaacs.
Billings, who was drafted to St Kilda at Pick 3 in the 2013 National Draft, said the day was “really good fun.”
“I always love getting down to local footy, especially the juniors,” Billings said to SMJFL Media.
“It was a good game of footy, and I did my little part as goal umpire down one end.”
Billings said he recognized the value umpires bring to the game.
“Without them there wouldn’t be a game,” he said.
“They do a great job umpiring the contest [and] it’s a very tough gig though.”
“They do their best to protect the players, which I think in today’s game is the most important thing and will continue to be the case,” he said.
Billings said it was a great to experience a game from an umpire’s perspective,
“It was great to experience what it’s like today though,” he said.
“You’re umpiring two sides so whichever call you make, there’ll always be one team that’s not too happy,” Billings said.
“It would certainly be very challenging but like I said, it’s also a very important job.”
SMJFL Umpire Academy umpire of four years India Isaacs said it was an “awesome” experience to take to the field with Chamberlain and Billings.
“I received heaps of really good feedback and communication.”
It was a special morning for Isaacs as Chamberlain took her under his wing and mentored her throughout the game.
Isaacs was fortunate to receive a special gift from Chamberlain at the end of the game – an autographed AFL Umpire shirt from Ray himself featuring his AFLUA Heritage Number, 401, plus a special message for India.
“Keep up the awesome work,” Chamberlain wrote.
Isaacs was hot off another special umpiring event, with Monarch SMJFL Umpires attending the Richmond and Western Bulldogs hit-off on Friday 30 April.
Five umpires from the Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy had the opportunity to warm up with the AFL Umpires, experience their match day routine and umpire the AusKick kids at half time.
Isaacs said the experience was “surreal”.
“I was on TV which was pretty cool, and I got the opportunity to chat with other umpires as well,” she said.
“It was a really rewarding experience.”
Isaacs encouraged SMJFL kids to give umpiring a go.
“Immerse yourself right into it,” she said.
“Go to trainings, watch the games, really get fully into it and enjoy yourself.”
Further up the bay at Hurlingham Reserve, Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy Coach Alanah French spoke with SMJFL Media about her journey as an umpire.
“I first started umpiring at the age of nine for Gippsland Juniors and started off at the boundary,” French said.
“When I turned 16, I transferred over to field.”
Now aged 28, French is a SMJFL Monarch Umpire Acadamy Coach and “absolutely loves it”.
“I suppose the best thing about coaching is seeing our umpires develop,” French said.
“When you see an umpire working so hard to take on your feedback, it’s those little goals that make you feel all warm and that you’ve succeeded as a coach.”
French said she was extremely grateful to have a round dedicated to umpires.
“I think it’s fantastic to have the Monarch Community Umpire Round” said French.
“Umpiring is a tough gig and it’s fantastic to have that recognition and that celebration.”
The SMJFL would like to thank SMJFL Umpire Academy Major Partner Monarch Painting for their continued support of grassroots umpire talent development.