By Ben Pollard
The SMJFL Umpiring Department has been restructured for the 2013 season, with the aim to provide greater opportunities for SMJFL umpires and more enjoyable games for SMJFL players.
Following an independent review at the end of the 2012 season, the SMJFL Board agreed to significant changes in the Department’s personnel and umpire coaching and training methods.
SMJFL Umpiring Director Bernadette Vaux said the changes were proof that the SMJFL Board sees the Umpiring Department as an integral part of the League’s success.
“We’re striving for a clear difference in the way games are officiated and therefore the success of games played, the safety of children on the park and the enjoyment each player gets from playing the game,” she said.
“That’s what this is all about… The umpires are an integral part of making the game successful.”
Ms Vaux said the appointment of Jonathon Auditore as head umpiring coach was the biggest change in the Umpiring Department structure.
Mr Auditore, a school teacher by trade, has umpired Australian Rules in the VAFA and the SFL, as well as in Queensland, Britain and even Japan.
Ms Vaux said Mr Auditore will set the season training plan for all SMJFL umpire coaches and was “very committed to having the best umpiring coaching team possible”.
Among others, Mr Auditore will be joined in the coaching ranks by VAFA umpire Jason Evans, who will coach at the SMJFL’s new Elsternwick Academy and SFL umpire Cai Davies, who will coach at the East Malvern Academy, which is in its second year.
Ms Vaux said all umpire coaches will be put through intensive training sessions and, for the first time, attend the three-day AFL National Umpire Coach Conference at Etihad Stadium.
Ms Vaux said increased professionalism in the Umpiring Department will lead to greater opportunities for SMJFL umpires.
“There is a well-defined and planned program, which is structured to develop individuals as umpires,” she said. “It will allow umpires to become accredited – all second-year-plus umpires are eligible to become Level 1 AFL Accredited Umpires,” she said.
“We’ll provide a clear pathway for umpires who want to develop and those who aspire to umpire senior football.”
It has also been confirmed that several AFL umpires will attend certain SMJFL umpire training sessions to share their knowledge of umpiring at the highest level.
SMJFL General Manager Jake McCauley said the Umpiring Department changes would make the SMJFL the envy of other junior football leagues in metropolitan Melbourne.
“Bernadette Vaux has done a wonderful job in assembling a ‘dream team’, so to speak, of highly experienced and reputable coaches and heads of department,” he said.
Mr McCauley said the SMJFL had significantly increased its investment in the Umpiring Department, and the results would eventually benefit all SMJFL member clubs, players, umpires and supporters.
“While the changes, and subsequent results, will take time to be implemented and seen throughout the League, I’m confident the increased investment will have both short and long-term benefits for the League as a whole,” he said.