Four young SMJFL umpires had the opportunity of a lifetime on Saturday night, walking onto the MCG with AFL umpires before the match between Richmond and Geelong.
Peter Bailes, Siobhan Halford, Ruby Martin and Connor Vaux had their entry to the arena announced over the MCG loudspeaker and their names displayed on the scoreboard in front of 55,265 people.
This opportunity was granted as part of Umpire Appreciation Round.
Each Round 6 AFL match had junior umpires from various local leagues take part in pre-match proceedings. This was done to create awareness of the role of umpires, to provide opportunity for young umpires to experience an AFL match day and to motivate young umpires to aspire to AFL umpiring.
Peter, Siobhan, Ruby and Connor made their way into the umpires’ rooms 45 minutes before the game to meet the AFL umpires for that night (see photo on right, bottom).
While walking on to the MCG along with SMJFL umpire coach Mark Rogers, one of the SMJFL umpires was to carry the match ball and hold it aloft to notify the timekeepers that the umpires had entered the arena. Ruby Martin was given this honour following a game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’.
After they arrived in the middle of the MCG, the SMJFL umpires were able to warm up with the AFL umpires. Peter Bailes then helped supervise the toss of the coin.
Outside official process, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick approached the four umpires for a chat, expressing his genuine interest in their umpiring careers and wishing them well for the next day when they would be umpiring their own matches (see photo on right, top).
Post-match, they were welcomed back into the AFL umpires’ rooms to learn more from the best in the business.
Undoubtedly, this was an experience Peter, Siobhan, Ruby and Connor will never forget. Who knows – perhaps one day they’ll be escorting future SMJFL umpires onto the MCG as AFL umpires themselves…
* For more photos from the night, please visit (and Like!) the ‘SMJFL Umpires’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SmjflUmpires