JUST like the players have over the pre-season, the umpires have been working hard on the track in preparation for the coming football season.
While most of the focus during football season is on the teams and players, without the umpires, there would be no game.
With the season set to kick off next weekend for the Bendigo, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley and North Central leagues, the Bendigo Umpires Association is still working on building its numbers for the year.
The men and women in white are looking for people of any age and experience to consider taking up umpiring.
"A lot of people forget that without umpires, we can't have a game of football," BUA chairman John Norton said on Friday.
"The bonus of umpiring is that it's paid better than most other casual jobs like supermarkets or fast food outlets and you get fit while you're doing it."
The BUA coaching panel is headed by ex VFL/AFL umpire Dean Goodridge as the director of coaching.
Highlighting the pathway the BUA can provide is young umpires John Howorth (field) and Sam Stagg (boundary) have both been added to the VFL development squad and will officiate in VFL and TAC Cup matches this year.
"There is definitely a pathway in place at the BUA and our coaches work hard to develop our umpires to reach their full potential," Norton said.
The AFL has two former players now umpiring - Jordan Bannister (ex-Essendon and Carlton) and Leigh Fisher (St Kilda).
The BUA hopes the recruitment campaign by the AFL will attract more retired footballers to consider the role at country level.
"I also believe that a lot more women could be umpires at a grassroots and community level to boost the numbers," Norton said.
"And because we're seeing so many diverse cultures and nationalities of players coming through the system, we will be looking at the same for umpires.
"Umpiring teaches you a lot about life because of the skills you learn, such as being able to think on your feet, perform under pressure and communicate effectively.
"This can be a little daunting at first, but it sets you up well for handling other aspects of life."
The BUA is also teaming with the Bendigo Braves this year in what is a new partnership.
"Retention is a massive thing for us, and this season we're partnering with the Bendigo Braves and trying to attract other sport demographics to put something into the Bendigo community that hopefully, helps both the Braves through sponsorship and us through attracting new members," Norton said.
Anyone interested in becoming an umpire can contact the BUA by emailing email@example.com or attend training at Weeroona Oval from 5.30pm on a Tuesday or Thursday night.