A new crop of umpires are making their mark on community football, following the introduction of AFL Victoria’s Diversity Umpiring program – The D-Rod Squad.
Named after former AFL player and Fijian-born AFL goal umpire David Rodan, AFL Victoria’s D-Rod Squad program has been developed to attract multicultural and Indigenous communities to the world of umpiring.
With support from AFL Victoria Community Ambassadors and local community leaders, three regional D-Rod Squads were established in highly populated diverse communities in Victoria’s south-east and Melbourne’s west and north-west regions.
Open to male and female participants of all ages, over 40 participants learned the basic skills of field, goal and boundary umpiring and completed an official AFL Victoria basic umpiring certification.
In addition, participants were provided with umpiring training tops and equipment from the AFL National Umpiring department and had an opportunity to watch the AFL Umpires in action at their weekly training sessions.
After completing the five-week D-Rod Squad program, eight umpires from the north-west region went on to become official umpires in the Essendon District Football League, while four participants transitioned to officiate in the Western Region Football League.
AFL Victoria Multicultural Engagement Coordinator and D-Rod Squad program coordinator David Rodan said it was pleasing to see so many Indigenous and multicultural people try their hand at umpiring.
“When we first began the program, the objective was to engage many different communities and introduce them to umpiring as well as tell them about the many benefits umpiring provides including keeping active and fit, the opportunity to develop new skills, meet new people and what most participants were excited about was the capacity to earn money as well,” Rodan said.
“At first you could tell the participants were unsure about the program, however after one or two sessions they started to become enthusiastic about umpiring and they would go back to their communities and encourage others to take part.
“Each week when the three groups came together to train, it was fantastic see their love of the game and umpiring grow as they continued to develop their skills.”
Helping the participants learn their craft alongside Rodan is proud Aboriginal Noonga man and head D-Rod Squad coach Joshua James.
Having officiated in second tier football within the NEAFL and currently umpiring in the Geelong region, Rodan said James was a terrific role model for participants.
“Josh is a respected umpire in his own right who is super passionate about coaching the next generation of multicultural and Indigenous communities about umpiring. We’re so very lucky to have him as part of the program as our Head Coach.”
With 12 participants progressing to officiate in community football leagues this season, Rodan is excited to see what the future holds for the program.
“To see so many of our participants go on to officiate in their local leagues post the program has been amazing,” Rodan said.
“We have had fantastic feedback and enthusiasm from many community leaders and parents of our participants, so we’re excited to see the program progress in season 2019 and beyond.”
For more information on the D-Rod Squads, CLICK HERE…