UMPIRING a game of football is difficult enough in pristine conditions - let alone trying to officiate in games that resemble rugby-like mauls for four quarters.
But that's what the region's umpires were forced to encounter last Saturday as games across the Bendigo, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley and North Central leagues were played in atrocious conditions plagued by wind, heavy rain that turned grounds into mudheaps and freezing temperatures.
One of those games was at Strathfieldsaye's Tannery Lane where the Storm and Sandhurst combined for just eight goals in a scrap that was built around stoppage after stoppage and scrubbed kicks forward.
Among the central umpires was Bendigo Umpires Association director of coaching Dean Goodridge, who described the conditions as the worst he had seen in his 35-year career.
"The weather just didn't let-up at all for the four quarters; you have games where you might have 15 minutes of torrential rain and then it clears, but these conditions lasted the whole game," Goodridge said on Wednesday.
"Also, in the third quarter Sandhurst had its whole team around the ball at various times and the quarter went for about 33 minutes because there were so many ball-ups.
"I'd throw the ball up, but there was so many players around the ball trying to get it out, so then as an umpire you're trying to manouevre to see where the ball is, who had the ball and whether it was loose or not.
"That was a real challenge... it was bad enough in the conditions, but then with so many players around the ball made it all the more harder.
"I've got no idea how many ball-ups there would have been, but we had no choice because you don't want to start inventing free kicks that aren't there to try to get the ball moving.
"You've just got to pay the obvious ones, be consistent, protect the ball player and protect the head, but it was just so hard with so many players around the ball."
So cold were the conditions at Strathfieldsaye, teenage boundary umpire Mitch O'Neill was forced from the ground at three quarter-time due to hypothermia.
"Mitch had also umpired the under-18 game and then stayed around and did the boundary for the seniors," Goodridge said.
"Mitch wasn't in a good way and had to come off at three quarter-time with hypothermia. I escorted him off, got him into a shower to get him warm and both clubs were both very concerned for him.
"Clubs right across the board in all four leagues were all outstanding in their support for the umpires, particularly the young boundary umpires.
"We also had a young boundary umpire who had to leave the ground at Mitiamo for similar reasons in the third quarter.
"Hopefully, we haven't lost any umpires out of the weekend who may be thinking,'I won't be putting myself through that again'."
The game at Mitiamo between the Superoos and Newbridge was halted for 20 minutes during the second quarter due to lightning.
In hindsight Goodridge acknowledges the same call should have been made for the match at Strathfieldsaye.
The A Grade netball match between the Storm and Dragons was abandoned due to the conditions, as were the South Bendigo v Eaglehawk and North Bendigo v Leitchville-Gunbower netball games.
"I saw one flash of lightning and said to Rohan Molenaar (Sandhurst doctor) and the two captains that if I see another one we're going off," Goodridge said.
"But I only saw the one lightning flash that was in the second quarter. In hindsight, though, I probably should have stopped the game and brought proceedings to a halt."
Strathfieldsaye won the game 5.13 (43) to 3.3 (21) in what was the BFNL's lowest winning score since 2006.
So treacherous were the conditions across the region on Saturday and the impact on scoring that 24 of the 34 senior teams that took to the field in the Bendigo, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley and North Central leagues all endured goal-less quarters.
There were four games were neither side scored a goal in a quarter - North Bendigo v Leitchville (3rd); Mitiamo v Newbridge (3rd); BL-Serpentine v Calivil United (2nd); and Wedderburn v Donald (3rd).
Neither North Bendigo or Leitchville-Gunbower scored at all in the third term of their clash at Atkins Street, while there must have been massive sighs of relief from Heathcote and Pyramid Hill players given they didn't have to put their bodies through the Saturday slogfest due to the bye.
"I remember umpiring at Waverley back in the day and you'd get some atrocious conditions out there, but nothing like what we copped for the whole game last Saturday... it just didn't let up," Goodridge said.
"After the game I was struggling to fill the votes out. It was so cold that I had the shakes on, so I pity the poor person who has to read those votes out on Michelsen Medal night because the writing isn't flash at all, that's for sure."
* Saturday's goal-less senior quarters:
Kangaroo Flat - 2nd(0.0); 3rd(0.1); 4th(0.3).
Golden Square -1st(0.3).
Castlemaine - 1st(0.0); 4th (0.3).
Kyneton - 1st(0.1); 2nd (0.0); 3rd(0.0); 4th(0.0).
South Bendigo - 1st(0.2).
Strathfieldsaye - 2nd(0.3);
Sandhurst - 4th(0.0).
RESULTS - Golden Square 79 d Kangaroo Flat 26; Maryborough 82 d Castlemaine 24; Gisborne 69 d Kyneton 1; Eaglehawk 105 d South Bendigo 41; Strathfieldsaye 43 d Sandhurst 21.
HEATHCOTE DISTRICT LEAGUE:
Huntly - 4th (0.1).
North Bendigo - 3rd(0.0).
Leitchville-Gunbower - 2nd (0.2); 3rd(0.0); 4th(0.1).
Mount Pleasant - 2nd(0.2); 3rd(0.1).
RESULTS - Elmore 56 d Huntly 37; North Bendigo 83 d Leitchville-Gunbower 25; LBU 69 d Colbinabbin 56; White Hills 77 d Mount Pleasant 39.
LODDON VALLEY LEAGUE:
Marong - 4th(0.6).
Mitiamo - 3rd (0.1).
Newbridge - 1st(0.1); 2nd(0.0); 3rd(0.3); 4th (0.0).
Bridgewater - 2nd(0.4).
Inglewood - 3rd(0.0).
BL-Serpentine - 2nd (0.0).
Calivil United - 2nd (0.4); 4th(0.3).
RESULTS - Maiden Gully YCW 58 d Marong 35; Mitiamo 68 d Newbridge 4; Bridgewater 84 d Inglewood 42; BL-Serpentine 75 d Calivil United 26.
NORTH CENTRAL LEAGUE:
Wycheproof-Narraport - 1st(0.1); 3rd (0.1).
Wedderburn - 1st (0.0); 3rd(0.1).
Donald - 2nd (0.0); 3rd(0.1).
St Arnaud - 1st(0.0); 2nd(0.1); 3rd(0.0).
Birchip-Watchem - 4th (0.0).
Boort - 1st(0.0); 2nd(0.0); 3rd (0.1).
RESULTS - Charlton 70 d Wycheproof-Narraport 16; Donald 43 d Wedderburn 22; Birchip-Watchem 58 d St Arnaud 22; Sea Lake Nandaly 139 d Boort 8.
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