AFL CENTRAL Victorian leagues will have the chance to show their appreciation for the role of umpires this weekend as part of Community Umpiring Round.
In this region it's the Bendigo Umpires Association, which was formed in 1931, in charge of officiating games across the Bendigo, Bendigo Junior, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley, North Central and Central Victorian Women competitions.
"The round is a good opportunity to promote the role of umpires and how important it is in the game each week," Bendigo Umpires Association chairman Michael Hockley said this week.
"It's also a chance to share the message that no matter who the person is, there's always a role for someone in umpiring.
"We're trying to recruit as many females as we can, but we also need young people coming through as boundary umpires and experienced people to be field umpires and there's a shortage of goal umpires, so we're looking for numbers there as well.
"The BUA has been around since 1931 and it's a great pathway for people to get to the AFL. We've had Tristan Burgess (field), John Howarth (field), Tim Lougoon (boundary), Sam Stagg (boundary) and Matt Vitiritti (boundary) who have all come through the BUA into the AFL and their shirts all hang at Weeroona Oval."
The BUA has 227 members this year, which is down on what the association's numbers had been prior to COVID, which has ravaged the previous two years of community sport.
"At the start of 2020 before COVID hit our numbers were really good (about 300) and it looked like we were going to have a bumper year," AFLCV umpires manager Sharon McColl said.
"But losing that whole season in 2020 and then the on-and-off football in 2021 has cost us a lot of momentum, but that's not just us - it's across the board in community sport.
"What makes it hard is when we don't have the numbers to be able to supply goal or boundary umpires, it puts the onus back on to the clubs.
"So part of Community Umpiring Round is also trying to work with the clubs in helping to build relationships.
Part of Community Umpiring Round is also trying to work with the clubs in helping to build relationships- Sharon McColl
"Up in the NCFL at Birchip and Sea Lake we've got six kids registered who run the boundary so we're not sending kids up from Bendigo and it's a great part-time job for kids in those small country towns. They can earn some money on a Saturday and they love the involvement."
The AFL's Head of Umpiring Dan Richardson this week thanked all umpires across the country for their commitment to the game.
"Umpiring is a fantastic way for everyone to be involved in the game, regardless of their age, gender or cultural background."
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