Green Shirt to Seniors

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

By Emily Corneluis

Like most 15 year olds I was looking to start earning some money, but couldn’t stand the thought of working somewhere boring for minimum wage. When my mum’s friend suggested that I start umpiring, it was the perfect solution and also an opportunity to get involved in the game I love. Little did I know that it would turn into one of the most important and rewarding opportunities of my life.

I began my umpiring journey at DDJFL (now South East Juniors (SEJ)) on a rainy Friday night in Berwick. I was nervous as I stepped out in my bright green uniform, but I had a wonderful mentor who ran with me and showed me all the basic rules and positioning. I soon grew more confident and began umpiring on my own, still with a mentor to guide and support me.

Around halfway through the season, my coach got me up in front of everyone and told me off for having a very dirty uniform, saying that my mum must not wash it at all. After pausing to let me sweat he handed me a ‘clean’ white uniform. I was pleased to have graduated from the mentor program so quickly and was determined to continue my development.

In 2009 I proved myself worthy of umpiring in higher age groups, in the two umpire system. My first two umpire game was with another female field umpire. This was a new experience for me and seeing a successful female umpire made me think I could possibly follow in her footsteps.

I was appointed to an under 13s grand final, which was a huge surprise for me and I began to consider umpiring as something I could really pursue. At the end of 2009 I received two phone calls that would change my outlook on umpiring. I was invited to an introduction night with the opportunity to umpire with the Eastern Football League (EFL) and also to be a part of the Youth Girls Academy.

The Youth Girls Academy aims to develop promising young female footballers and umpires, and has provided me with some amazing opportunities. Along with other girls from across the state, I have been able to umpire an Auskick match at Casey Fields, several school matches and round robins, girls football, meet umpires such as Chelsea Roffey and train with VFL umpires. Other opportunities have included umpiring at the MCG and umpiring state women’s championships in other states. I began in 2010 and am still a member of the Academy.

Despite a promising start I faced a bit of a setback in 2010. I umpired my first interleague game through SEJ and began umpiring under 15s and 16s. At EFL, I umpired division 1 colts and was often umpiring with older ex-senior umpires who had plenty to teach me. However, halfway through the year I got sick and my season was cut short.

Despite this, 2011 was a huge year for me. Even before the season started I was part of the EFL Academy over summer that works on core strength and running technique to give promising umpires a head start for the season. I was then chosen through the EFL to be involved in the NAB Cup Community Umpire Experience, which is an opportunity for community umpires to experience the inner sanctum of AFL umpiring rooms and participate in the warm up prior to the match.

During the 2011 season, I was part of the Sport Development program through the EFL and Acacia learning, which allows participants to complete a certificate 3 in sport. As a participant, I also assisted in the EFL season launch. At the season launch I met a member of the Women of the EFL (WEFL) who invited me to speak with my coach at one of their functions and become a member.

I was also a member of the inaugural EFL Rookie Squad, taken by Scott McLaren, which ran monthly meetings where Scott would teach us about things not usually covered in training such as match day preparation and communication techniques. He was also good enough to come and watch some of my games, and take us all to an AFL match where we discussed umpire decisions and positioning, and were given a tour of the facilities prior to the match.

On field I umpired reserves for the first time during preseason and was given the opportunity to umpire a division 2 senior practise match. I then umpired division 1 reserves for the majority of the year and made my senior debut in division 4 in the latter half of the season.

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend, EFL has a bye with the exception of one exhibition match. The reserves match was umpired by an all-female panel to promote females in umpiring. I was part of this panel, and on the day got a pre-game speech from Chelsea Roffey, featured in a Channel 9 News story, and also in an interview on the Local Footy Show. 

I was very excited to have a successful finals campaign and grateful that a season full of hard work resulted in selection for the under 16 division 2 grand final at SEJ and the under 18 division 3 grand final at EFL. Following such a great season, 2012 promises to be another massive year.

In furthering my umpiring development I have decided to stop umpiring juniors to concentrate on my senior development. However, I have been given the opportunity to coach a school based academy through SEJ and AFL VIC.

Umpiring has been a truly unique experience and something I will always be thankful for. On field, it has kept me fit and provided a way to escape the stresses of study as well as something to focus on and aim for. However, off field has been the most important to me.

Umpiring has provided huge personal development and I have become more confident, developed great people skills and learnt how to deal with pressure and criticism. I have also made lifelong friends who share many of the same interests and met some truly inspiring people.

Umpiring is a great way to get involved in local footy, and you never know where it might lead! 

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