Girl Power

Tonight’s AFL Broken Hill Youth Girls Grand Final between North and South will have an all-female umpiring crew on the game.

Three field umpires, one emergency umpire, and two goal umpires will don the lime green uniform in a first for this competition’s decider.

Senior Women’s players Abby Johns, Mary Edgecumbe, Melisa Keenan, and Phoebe Knell have each been in the umpiring system for the past two years and will form this week’s umpiring cohort alongside goal umpires Rachel Goodenough and Ros O’Connor.

AFL Broken Hill Youth Girls Umpire’s Coordinator, Bill Bergman, says that the league identified the need for female umpires prior to the start of the 2022 season, and when he took over the position, it was something he was keen to explore.

AFL Broken Hill Youth Girls Umpire’s Coordinator, Bill Bergman, said that an umpire shortage that meant some senior umpires were at times tripling up on umpiring games, alerted him and the league to identify the need to seek out umpires before the start of the 2022 season.

“When I first took over this position, I had a little bit of a vision that I would like the senior girls to umpire the youth girls, because they can look up to them,” he told us.

“I approached the girls and these four (Abby, Mary, Melisa, and Phoebe) put their hands up and for the first time in the last two seasons, we’ve got a chance of having six officiating umpires for this round.

“The four field umpires, they’ve been doing an outstanding job and for it all to come together this Wednesday, I think it’s unbelievable.”

As a mentor, Mr Bergman has seen the first-hand effect these senior players have had on the Youth Girls competition, but also in the group’s effort to combine what they know from playing with the skills of umpiring. He says getting them together to educate and mentor them as umpires has been a big reason why the Youth Girls competition is on the up.

“It’s something for these young girls to look up and aspire to be like some of these senior girl players.”

“The first year that Youth Girls started, the numbers umpire-wise weren’t strong. But once you put the feelers out and these four girls jumped at it, it’s just sort of gone on and on. There’s more backing for it,” he says.

“Through education, they’ve probably become better footballers, got a better understanding of the game and it’s something for these young girls to look up and aspire to be like some of these senior girl players.

“It’s probably a good reason why the Youth Girls are still going because of the support of these four girls. They already understand that you’ve got to be a different cat to be an umpire in any sport because you can’t please everyone, and they’ve just sort of gelled.

“Combined with their own football and their own football training, to commit to an AFL program like the Youth Girls is a credit to them. They’ve just been great, and moving forward we’d like to see more girls come through and do the same sort of thing.

“The league’s always screaming out for more umpires to any age, any grade to come, have a bit of a dabble. Getting to know these girls from a personal level as well, they’re very passionate about their footy and they’ve been a big advantage to the local footy league.”

AFL Broken Hill is always on the lookout for more umpires and welcomes anyone to join. If you’re interested in umpiring, contact the local league via [email protected]

The Youth Girls Grand Final between North and South gets underway tonight – Wednesday – at Jubilee Oval from 5.30pm.

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