Roffey give Goal Umpiring appeal

Listen to Chelsea Roffey for five minutes and you’ll realise just what a remarkable woman she is. The only female umpire on the AFL list this year is not only highly motivated, she can engage a crowd full of mostly blokes, keep their attention and even make them laugh – which she did over the three days she was in Perth recently.
 
The 26-year-old was born in South Australia, raised in Brisbane and now resides in Melbourne. Her love of footy started when she was young, accompanying her parents on their weekend sporting ventures.

In her final year of high school in 1998, Roffey decided she’d had enough of her music classes, which opened up room in her schedule. When she heard the football team needed volunteers, she started goal umpiring for her school. The year after she finished high school, she started umpiring in the AFLQ, progressing to State level matches soon after. In June 2004 she was elevated to the AFL and in August that year she officiated her first game between Brisbane and West Coast. To date she has done over 40 AFL matches and many Wizard and NAB Cup games as well.

In the male-dominated world of football, Roffey said there would always be “doubting Thomas’” who wondered if she was up to the job. “But it’s more of a self-imposed feeling. I had to do press conferences and interviews, things a male goal umpire entering the game wouldn’t have to do. I just wanted to prove myself,” she said. But what about players or other umpires? "At that level, the players don’t care, as long as you’re doing your job,” she said.

“The other umpires are very professional, they just want to know that I’m working as hard as them.” And work hard they certainly do. Goal umpires in the AFL have to do a 4km time trial, a beep test and agility tests in the pre-season. They also get skins folds taken four times a year. In a typical week, Roffey trains twice a week. There is a video session on Tuesdays and Wednesdays there is an intense workout with a fitness coach and a skills session.
 
There are no full-time umpires in the AFL so most have other jobs to support themselves. “There are barristers and lawyers amongst the umpiring ranks,” Roffey said, “Umpiring is a huge commitment. It’s directed my whole life choices – I’ve got to live in a capital city of Australia and I haven’t lived overseas yet. “But at the same time I sometimes stop and think to myself that this job of umpiring is really cool!”

Her passion for the game is infectious. She regaled one of her Perth audiences with a story of one of her game highlights. “I remember umpiring a game where Jonathon Brown and Matthew Pavlich were vying for the Coleman Medal,” she said. “I remember watching their tallies during the game on the big screen. Brown would kick a goal and his score would go up and the crowd would go wild. Then Pavlich would get a goal and his would go up and the crowd would go wild. I love riding the rollercoaster with the fans, it’s what footy is about.”
 
Listening to Roffey talk, it is no wonder that she’s made her mark in the AFL although this young woman certainly wouldn’t realise it.

“She is very unaware of what she has accomplished and the effect she has on people,” said Jan Cooper, the WA Female Football Development Manager, “There is no ego about this girl at all.” On her tight schedule while in Perth, Roffey mentored the female umpires in the WAFL reserves and colts at Steel Blue Oval, while she joined panel to umpire a West Australian Women’s Football League game between Claremont and East Frementle. Roffey also addressed the boarders at Presbyterian Ladies College.

Roffey is not a recruitment officer, nor is she a cheerleader for signing up girls into umpiring positions -- her message is plain and simple. “Females have what it takes to umpire football. It’s not a matter of should they or shouldn’t they, it’s just that they can.”

This article was originally written by Gemma Laidley, WAFC, for afl.com.au

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