500th umpire to run out for AFLSJ this weekend

An umpiring milestone in the AFL Sydney Junior competition will be reached in the North-West of Sydney this weekend. For the first time, 500 individual umpires will have officiated games in a single AFL Sydney Juniors season.

The AFLSJ competition includes leagues within Sydney HarbourWestern Sydney and the Independent Schools. With demand for teams growing in these areas, similarly the number of officials has grown with it.

Dylan Moore, Umpire Development Coordinator for AFL Sydney Juniors, believes that this is a major achievement for the league.

“There are approximately 260 games per week across the three competitions, which are all serviced by the AFL Sydney Juniors Umpires group,” Moore said.

“At the end of 2016, we achieved 429 individual umpires running games across the AFL Sydney Juniors competitions.

“The goal was set at 500 umpires for 2017 and we are now at 535 registrations with the 500th umpire running out this weekend.”

Manisha Kulasinghe has been named as the milestone umpire this weekend. Kulasinghe registered as an umpire at the start of this year, but after being maligned by injury she will make her first appearance on Saturday.

Kulasinghe will take charge of the Pennant Hills versus North Ryde Under 9s game at Ern Holmes Oval at 10am.

The milestone speaks to the strength and the depth of AFL Sydney Juniors. The competition is growing to match even the biggest ones around the country.

“It will make us one of the largest umpiring groups in the country numbers wise,” Moore said.

“Last year the three largest umpire groups in the country were the VAFA with 567 [Senior football], the Adelaide Football League with 523 [Senior football] and the Eastern Football League with 498 [Junior and Senior Football].”

Umpiring is a great opportunity for players and fans to get involved in the game at a closer level.

“For players it gives them an extra opportunity to stay involved and develop a different perspective on the game, which helps their playing ability,” Moore said.

“For non-players, it allows them to be involved in a great game. All three disciplines – field, boundary and goal – offering something different to cater to all levels of experience, fitness and confidence.”

Moore has been particularly impressed by umpire growth in the Western Sydney area.

“Western Sydney has grown from 90 umpires to 135 umpires,” he said.

“We have also had over 200 new umpires this year, which has contributed to the growth, including 60 new [umpires] in Western Sydney.”

The number of new female umpires have also grown in the competition, boosted by the successful inaugural AFLW season.

“Our current female umpire numbers are 60, which is up from 33 in 2016,” Moore said.

“This can be attributed the huge growth in the female football space, and umpiring groups ensuring they are a female friendly space.”

Umpire growth shows no sign of slowing down and the AFLSJ competition has its sight set on even larger numbers in 2018.

“In 2018 we will be aiming to hit approximately 560 umpires, which would be 10% growth again,” Moore said.

“This growth will allow us to match the player growth rate and continue to service the league. Any more than this is amazing and will help us combat depth issues for the future.”

If you want to get involved in umpiring with the AFL Sydney Juniors, check out the AFL Umpiring website.