SMJFL kids took to the field at Linton Street Reserve on Sunday to get their first taste of umpiring at the inaugural Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy Come and Try Day.
Kids as young as 12 years old took like ducks to water, taking part in drills ranging from the first bounce to boundary throw-ins.
The event, supported by SMJFL Umpire Academy Major Partner Monarch Painting, was a huge success in its debut with twelve new umpires signing up by the end of the day.
The umpires will join the Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy, which is the largest of its kind across the country in both grassroots and elite football.
724 umpires took part in the academy in 2019, and 661 umpires registered for the 2020 season before registrations closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMJFL Umpire Academy and Operations Manager Cameron Watts said he was overjoyed to see so many kids give umpiring a go for the first time.
“One of the most difficult parts of becoming an umpire is taking those first steps,” Mr Watts said.
“To see all these kids here today being confident enough to give umpiring a go for the first time is really special.”
The Monarch SMJFL Umpire Academy was heavily impacted in 2020, with all training going online via TeamApp.
“This is our first day back doing a face-to-face activity, and I’m blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm,” said Mr Watts.
“Today has really set the tone for 2021, and I can’t wait to see the Academy go from strength to strength this season.”
“I’d like to thank the SMJFL Umpire Academy’s Major Partner Monarch Painting for their ongoing support and for making this day possible.”
The tutorial was led by Monarch Painting Ambassador Mark ‘Fussy’ O’Connor.
“Speaking of come and try, we’ve had people come and try quality Monarch Painting accessories,” said Fussy.
“You can have the best paint, but if you don’t put it on with premium Monarch Painting accessories, you’re not going to get a great finish.”
Fussy also spoke of the importance of supporting umpires.
“These kids learning to be umpires are the kids of tomorrow,” he said.
“Monarch Painting want to help sustain the game, and you need umpires to do that.”
Monarch Painting Marketing Manager Michelle Wee spoke of the importance of their partnership with the SMJFL.
“It’s such a great cause. We are so proud at Monarch Painting to be proud sponsors of this Academy, and its all about the kids.”
“Without these umpires, we wouldn’t have a game.”