The Umpire holds the ball aloft. The siren sounds and the crowd waits in anticipation. The Umpire surveys the ground and then steps toward the circle.
The Umpire bends from the waist and swings their arms down. The ball thumps into the hallowed turf and the ruckmen contest the first loose ball of the match.
Bouncing of the football by the Field Umpire is unique to Australian Football and a feature of the game. Umpires striving to achieve higher levels of umpiring need to be able to bounce the ball to ensure that a fair contest between ruckmen prevails.
Bouncing the ball is a skill that needs plenty of practice as the expectations are that the Umpire will bounce the ball straight and high. There are no precise specifications for a good bounce. However, expectations will be satisfied if the bounce is such, that a fair contest between ruckmen results.
To provide for a fair contest, the bounce/throw-up must be "reasonably" straight, allowing opposing ruckmen to contest the ball without either one being disadvantaged by the direction in which the ball travels, and high enough to enable them to leap into the air to contest the descending ball.
During the course of the match the Field Umpire will be required to bounce/throw-up the ball on many occasions:
All Field Umpires develop their own technique for bouncing/throwing up the football and if their natural technique produces consistently accurate bounces/throw-ups of appropriate height, then they should continue with it.
Bouncing is simply propelling a level ball, from a high arc, vertically to the ground. The Umpire’s hands must be behind the thrust imparted onto the ball – that is, they must be spread evenly across the top of the ball as it is propelled downward.
The arc of the bouncing action begins above the head and the pivot point is the waist, not the shoulders. The trunk of the Umpire’s body and their extended arms (with elbows slightly bent) together form the radius of arc.
This means the Umpire must bend from the waist and swing their arms right down to the ground, the pivot point (the waist) being brought low to the ground so that the arc meets the ground at near to vertical.
This is done by planting their foot with bent knee, then bending forward from the waist, and bringing their chest down to his knee when the ball meets the ground.
Vertical ball contact with the ground is achieved by two simultaneous actions at the final stage:
By releasing the football as close to the ground as possible Umpires reduce the margin for error without impeding the velocity of the ball-into the ground.
A good bounce/throw-up could be defined as one which is straight and high resulting in opposing ruckmen having a fair and equal opportunity to play the ball.
The basic fundamentals of umpiring apply when bouncing/throwing up the ball: Watch the players – not the ball.
Common faults of bouncing the ball-include: