It’s a moment even the elite find nerve racking.
Standing in the middle of the footy field, a huge crowd in attendance, and all eyes on you and the bounce of the football.
For young umpires and even those like veteran AFL umpire Ray Chamberlain, the centre bounce – especially at the start of a big match – can be the stuff of nightmares.
“I remember the first bounce I had in the 2010 grand final,” Chamberlain said.
“108,000 people at the G and it felt like I had a hand grenade in my hands.”
“It’s a closed skill just like teeing up your driver on the golf course, and even Tiger Woods misses fairways.”
“Even now after almost 200 games it’s the one thing that you still think about.”
“Some days you feel like you couldn’t miss one if you tried but other times you have no idea where it’s going.”
Chamberlain said with hard work he was able to bridge the gap between his best and his worst.
“I had some good people help me work on it and it probably took almost four years of hard work to get to the stage where over 24 rounds of the season I was confident I would come out ahead of the curve.”
Through the Mates Program, Chamberlain and six of his AFL colleagues will have the chance to pass on these important lessons to young umpires from Melbourne’s premier competitions.
The two-time AFL Grand final umpire will be paired with three young whistle blowers from the Southern Football League in a mentoring initiative designed to fast-track their development.
“With umpiring it’s not about doing anything particularly sexy, it’s about consistently and predictably positioning yourself in the right spots to see the information.”
“Once you see that information it’s about being able to make the right decisions.”
“Umpiring community football is just as simple. The rules aren’t different, the dimensions of the ground aren’t different and our role isn’t different, so it’s just about coping with the environment.”
Chamberlain said being part of the Mates Program was his way of repaying the support he received as a young umpire.
“I grew up in Sydney and I had guys like Peter Carey and David Howlett, who are former AFL Umpires and legends in our sphere, who would stay over in Sydney to watch me umpire a state league game and provide me with feedback.
“Without them and others who have supported me through I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to umpire AFL footy.”
“I feel it’s important to give something back and help people who are keen and want to get better.”
“We want them to know that they’re one of us and we want to them to have fun and do well at it.”
Andrew Scott, one of the young umpires paired with Chamberlain, said he was honoured to be selected to take part.
“It’s a huge opportunity to learn off someone at the highest level and to be able to understand how they got to where they are now,” Scott said.
“I’m not too sure yet if Ray will get to one of our games but it would be great to get some feedback.”
Scott said he would also tap into Chamberlain’s experience when it comes to the all-important bounce.
“The bouncing of the ball isn’t something that I’ve had a lot of experience with so it’s probably something I’ll ask to Ray about.”
“I’m keen to go as far as I can with umpiring and obviously bouncing is a pretty important skill.”
“So I’ll definitely speak to Ray and ask him how handle the crowd pressure and things like that.”
Photos courtesy of Amy Paton
|Eastern FL||Jason Armstrong||Sebastian Purcell|
|Essendon DFL||Brendan Hosking||Daniel Patrick|
|Northern FL||Shane McInerney||David Kelly|
|Riddell DFL||Troy Pannell||Zac Martin|
|Southern FL||Ray Chamberlain||Kai Allison|
|VAFA||Nick Foot||Jack MacLean|
|Western Region||Tristan Burgess||Dean McGowan|