ON the brink of expansion and only two seasons old AFLW is challenging long-held perceptions on the game in ways we might not realise: like culture towards umpires.
The vibe about AFLW matches is different and not because of the boutique ground sizes or the hype of what has been something a little new. There is a distinct more family-friendly feel about the grounds.
AFLW has reinforced there is a place for women in the game, at all ranks, increasingly in match-day roles. It was not that females had not held such roles before, but this has been encouraging more women and girls to get involved in all areas of the game.
AFL umpire Eleni Glouftsis feels these changes together are creating a culture shift in the game for what is acceptable behaviour – less tolerance for the old-school rip into the game’s officials.
This might take time to really sift down to grassroots football, but it is a valuable by-product from the boom in the women’s game.
Glouftsis hit the training track at City Oval with Ballarat Football Umpires Association in the wake of the AFL clash between Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide.
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The AFL outreach program allowed Glouftsis – the AFL’s first female field umpire – a chance to connect with the BFUA’s growing female contingent, which continues to reach new milestones. BFUA boasted its first all-female umpiring panel for a Central Highlands Football League senior match last month.
This is a telling cultural result for the CHFL and the umpires’ association.
There might still be a long way to go to improve this about the Goldfields region and there have undoubtedly been some difficult incidents for umpires this season. But the all-female appointment signalled we are positively heading in the right direction.
Gloutsis told Press Box an umpires group was only as good as the umpire support. She stressed the importance of umpires working as a team and, in leading a Ballarat session, brought boundary and field umpires together in some training drills.
Umpires stepping out on the field as a team is a concept often overlooked in the broader game-day picture, even though umpires dress as a team, walk out on field united and aim to work seamlessly as a unit in facilitating fair play. Up in the stands, they have their coaches helping to fine-tune their games too.
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Appreciating this, as fans and players, can only help to foster respect for what umpires are out there to do in supporting each other. Glouftsis said this was crucial for umpires to reinforce too.
“Often it can be hard for boundaries and field umpires to train together...yet on game-day they are working together as a team and it really helps to have that respect for each other as a team,” Gloftsis said. “We’re teaching each other and learning from each other valuable skills like leadership, teamwork and hard work, which is important in everyday life.”
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Glouftsis, who grew up in umpiring, says she was lucky to have always felt like an umpire, as opposed to a female umpire, and it was a privilege to show other girls the pathway amid an exciting time in the game.
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