Seven of the state’s most promising umpires will have the chance to showcase their skills on the big stage after being appointed to the umpiring panel for the upcoming 2020 AFL Women’s season.
The group of seven come from across all three umpiring disciplines, with Sam Bridges (Field), Ollie Bennett (Boundary), Lucas Chamberlain (Boundary), Jack Marsh (Boundary), Brayden White (Goal), Bryce Guy (Goal) and Xanthea McCarthy (Goal) recognised among the country’s upper echelon of emerging officiators.
The AFLW level is a prestigious part of the umpiring pathway and will expose this group to elite match-day environments and coaching, with the experiences set to accelerate their individual development.
The North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos will play two matches in the state this season – Saturday February 15 v GWS Giants (UTAS Stadium) and Saturday March 7 v Adelaide (North Hobart Oval) – however this group will also likely travel interstate to officiate other matches.
Recently appointed TSL / TSLW Umpiring Coordinator Gerry O’Dea says these selections demonstrate the strong health of umpiring in the state.
“It is a big tick. It shows that we are on the mark when it comes to umpiring and that we have a good development pathway in place,” O’Dea said.
“This is a fantastic pat on the back to these seven umpires, but it also shows that for young Tasmanians there is a clear pathway.”
This pathway is demonstrated by none better than goal umpire Xanthea McCarthy.
McCarthy, 18, had little to do with football growing up but became hooked after attending an umpiring training session with a friend.
“I started in 2015 as a boundary umpire when one of my friends got me into it for the fitness and money.
“As we were walking out before my first game the siren went off and I was terrified… I thought there might have been a fire or an air-raid or some sort of security issue!”
“I transferred across into the goals after two years and a couple of calf injuries and spent one year training regionally before being invited to train with the TSL group, where I made my senior debut last year.”
AFL-listed umpires will take charge during matches in the NAB #AFLW season for the first time in 2020.
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) January 29, 2020
McCarthy umpired last week’s Brisbane Lions intra-club practice match at Kingston’s Twin Ovals and now with the AFLW season fast approaching, admits the speed of her journey has taken her by surprise.
“The AFLW is a huge development in women’s sport and I’m really excited to be a part of it.
“It’s very excited and quite unexpected. I had no ambitions of this at the start of last year.
“It’s a great privilege to be part of the AFLW, as it’s a huge development in women’s sport. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The chance to officiate at the AFLW level will provide a rich learning opportunity according to O’Dea.
“Opportunities such as this get them into the national eye. This is a great place for them to be as they will be watched by AFL Umpire observers and there will be media involved, so it is a really good learning experience and will hold them in good stead moving into their future careers.
“There will be a selection committee each week and this group will be getting consistent feedback and updates. For them the pressure will ramp up when it comes to selection but they are all good enough to make the grade and we are confident that they will all do Tasmania proud.”
O’Dea has a rich background in sports administration, having worked for the West Australian Football Commission, WAFL club West Perth, Australian Sailing and most recently Cricket Tasmania as Match Officials Manager.
O’Dea will manage the TSL umpiring network and focus on the development of emerging umpire talent alongside umpire coaches Michael Kelly (Head Coach – Field), Terry Fellows (Assistant Coach – Field), Damon Marsh (Coach – Boundary), Mark Jackson (Coach – Boundary), Craig Geeves (Head Coach – Goal) and Andrew Ikin (Assistant Coach – Goal).
“I spent the first week introducing myself but the umpires and umpire coaches have been wonderful in embracing me. I think it helped that I came from Cricket Tasmania where I was in an umpiring and match officials role, so the transition has been quite smooth. I’m looking forward to working with the umpires this year.”