Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

A whole new ball game for AFL players

Five ex-AFL players will be on the other side of the fence this year when they take up the whistle for Goulburn Valley Football Umpires' Association.

DAMEN FRANCIS January 24, 2014 4:15am

Jason Wild, Derek Hall and Paul Brown are among a handful of ex-AFL players picking up a whistle for Goulburn Valley Football Umpires’ Association this season.

Between them, they have played more than 750 AFL games, now Paul Brown, Jason Wild, Anthony Stevens, Craig Sholl and Derek Hall are out to help change the perception of those keeping them in line all those years.

The quintet, along with ex-AFL umpires Shane McDonald and David Ackland, have joined Goulburn Valley Football Umpires’ Association for the upcoming season.

Every week the association provides officials to the Goulburn Valley, Murray, Picola District, Kyabram District and Shepparton District Junior football leagues and while numbers are always an issue, of particular concern at the moment is the gap between junior umpires and senior umpires.

Not only do the new faces help push the number of umpires at the association’s disposal closer to its season target of 200, but their aim is to help encourage ex-footballers from all levels to pick up a whistle when their playing days have come to an end.

‘‘Everyone always says they’ll never be an umpire, but it’s not the worst thing in the world to be involved with,’’ Brown said.

‘‘You’re still involved with the footy and hopefully we can change the attitude a little bit.’’

Hall, who played 74 games for the Cats between 1995-2000, before going on to don the jumper for Mooroopna and Katandra, said there were plenty of ex-players out there who should consider taking up umpiring as a way of returning to or staying involved in the game.

‘‘After 20 years of football I just needed a break, but after three years I’m happy to commit a bit now,’’ Hall said.

‘‘They’ve talked about a shortage (of umpires) for a few years and if us turning up can impact on getting a few more blokes here to help umpires then that’s great.’’

Association president Darren Meek said the association had worked closely with the AFL Goulburn Murray regional commission to find ways to lift the profile of umpiring and he was delighted to have the support of such well-respected football identities.

‘‘A lot of people always say your best umpires are your ex-players,’’ Meek said.

‘‘They’ve got a good feel for the game and if we can get those guys to come down it’s hopefully going to get other people who have just retired from the game or are injured or whatever and can’t play anymore involved.’’

The association’s first training session of the season was last night at Chas Johnson Reserve and is on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6pm.

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