Jordan Bannister in his playing days with Carlton FC

Former Blue switches to white in umpiring bid

DELISTED Carlton defender Jordan Bannister may soon find himself in charge of former teammates and opponents after joining a fast-track umpiring scheme set up by the AFL.

The League's player to umpire pathway academy aims to establish a process for ex-players to move into umpiring.

Bannister, who played 53 games for the Blues and 14 for Essendon, has signed on with the academy in a bid to emulate former Collingwood and Essendon wingman Mark Fraser and win a position as an AFL umpire.

That process, which will take between one and four years, will start next season when Bannister and two other recently-delisted players still to be announced begin umpiring in local competitions such as the Northern and Eastern Football Leagues.

Bannister showed interest in becoming an umpire almost two years ago and said the professionalism of the umpiring fraternity was particularly appealing to him now that his nine-year AFL career had come to an end.

"I'm pretty excited to umpire my first game. I've spoken to a few ex-teammates and they're pretty excited for me I'm looking forward to it," Bannister said from AFL House on Thursday.

"I'm not trying to put a timeline on it at the moment. I'm just pretty excited to be in a position to have the opportunity.

"I realise its not going to happen overnight, it is going to be a fairly long process, but I've always prided myself on a hard-working approach. I'm taking that into this and I want to absorb as much as I can."

Bannister had nominated for the upcoming NAB AFL Draft, but said he was now committed to the umpiring pathway.

Football operations manager Adrian Anderson said the AFL had developed the initiative through 2009 and had worked with the AFL Players' Association to identify former players who may be suited to umpiring.

"We believe that AFL players from their experience at the elite level, not only in terms of their fitness and understanding of the game, have a number of the attributes which makes them ideally suited to becoming umpires," Anderson said.

"Jordan comes to us with an outstanding reputation from everyone at Carlton as a hard-working player who got the best out of himself, was a great team man and we're extremely delighted to have Jordan join the ranks of our player to umpire pathway."

Fraser umpired five AFL matches before a hip injury forced him into retirement and League umpiring director Jeff Gieschen said Bannister faced some stern challenges if he was achieve the same heights.

"He is a terrific athlete, he has a really good feel for the game and understands the rules, but probably the technicalities out on the ground such as positioning [will take some time]," Gieschen said.

"Traditionally players go to the ball and go to where the next ball is going to be whereas with umpiring you've got to stay 20 to 25 metres away in the best viewing position.

"There will be that, then the teamwork with other umpires and obviously bouncing is going to be a challenge. It's a difficult thing to do and we take for granted that our boys do it pretty well, but for anybody who hasn't done it it's going to be a massive challenge."

Bannister quipped that as a tagger he had already established a close relationship with umpires who were often warning him off the player he was running with.

He agreed he would need to work hard to master the art of bouncing the ball, but revealed he had already had a crack at it.

"I had a few goes at it last year with Simon Wiggins and it wasn't too bad," he said.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be anyway. I'm looking forward to doing a lot of training with that."

The former players will be under the direction of a specific coach who will be appointed in the coming weeks.

Article was originally written by Jason Phelan for afl.com.au 

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