Paving the Way

Friday, September 23, 2011

By Jordan Laing

Kelly Williamson is paving the way for women to umpire at the top of the game.

On Wednesday night Williamson became the first ever female to be appointed to field umpire the Southern Football League 1st Division Grand Final. 

Kelly will also become the first female field umpire to officiate a Senior 1st Division Grand Final anywhere in Victoria.

The announcement was attended by AFL field umpire Steve McBurney who mentored Kelly in the Mates Program in 2010.

It is a remarkable achievement for the 26-year-old who also suffers from a heart condition which can sometimes see her heart race out to 250 beats a minute. 

“At the start of the year I set out to umpire a senior grand final but I had hopes of umpiring a division three or maybe division two,” Williamson said.

“So it’s definitely higher than what I was aiming for at the beginning of the year which is great.”

In recent years, interest in female umpiring has rapidly grown in the league and across the country.

There are now more pathways and development academy squads aimed at helping women to officiate at the highest level.

“I think four years ago within the league there were four women umpires – goal, field and boundary – and this year we had 21 on the list so it’s definitely growing in our league,” Williamson said.

“I’m part of a Youth Girls Academy and there’s around 20 girls in that around Melbourne metro and country Victoria.

“I’ve been involved in it for four or five years and it’s growing in leaps and bounds.

“It [female umpiring] is new so the more girls that get into it the more experience we’ll have and the more opportunities we’ll receive.”

Williamson started umpiring five years ago when she was a player. Unfortunately a season-ending knee injury brought a premature end to her 2009 season and from then on she decided to focus solely on umpiring.

It’s a decision which is paying huge dividends with Williamson’s sights firmly set on becoming the first female to field umpire in the AFL.

SFL chief executive Wayne Holdsworth said it’s a remarkable achievement for Williamson and one that will inspire other women to give umpiring a go.

“It’s a landmark point in time for umpiring in that we now have our very first female umpire umpiring [the senior Grand Final] on Sunday,” Holdsworth said.

“Kelly’s a credit not only to her family and the umpiring fraternity but also to women.

“This appointment just shows how AFL football can be so inclusive.”

In another significant achievement for the league, Williamson will be joined alongside 19-year-old Jack Thompson and 18-year-old Kai Davies as field umpires for the match in an umpiring panel with an average age of 21 years.

The SFL Grand Final will be played this Sunday between East Brighton and St Pauls at Springvale Reserve.

graham aviation, 27-09-11 19:45:
what a fantastic acheavment, hope she makes it to the afl. well done.
John Ryan, 29-09-11 11:26:
Well done. It is worth noting that Megan Ryan a Year 12 student has officiated as a boundary umpire at the last two Alberton league grand finals. Megan also won the golden whistle award in 2011 for the best overall umpire in South Gippsland
Jason Smeets, 30-09-11 22:17:
Absolutely fantastic achievement. It's great to see women/girls moving into the upper ranks of our great game. Well done and I wish you all the best with your future umpiring.
Terry McInnes+-+MVFC+Junior+Head+Coach+South+Australia, 10-11-11 12:37:
Congratulations Kelly richly deserved and great reward for persistance and effort.

We need more young women like yourself in South Australia and around Australia doing the same.

Keep up the good work in developing this area of our great game.

Terry McInnes
U10/12s Junior Blacks Head Coach
Morphett Vale Football Club South Australia.

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