Umpires hit the track in readiness for Round 1 

AFL South Coast umpires have taken to Thomas Dalton Park as pre-season training resumed following the lengthy off-season. A lot has changed in the six months since Grand Final day, with an updated coaching panel, travel pay and new pay rates for girls grades the big wins for the umpiring group.  

AFL South Coast has committed to increasing junior girls pay rates in 2024, to align each grade’s girls’ competition with the respective boys/mixed division. This will provide a more inviting base rate for new female umpires, who have shown more likelihood to officiate girls’ grades. Further to these rate changes, a travel allowance, for carpooling umpires who travel beyond their local region has been introduced. Paid for by the league, these rates for senior matches act as an additional incentive to support the southern clubs with league-appointed umpires each week. 

Casey White, Community Football & Competition Manager – South Coast & Central West was thrilled that the rate changes had been endorsed by clubs in late 2023. “As part of the review of 2023, we noticed that umpire pay rates for girls’ grades were lower than those of the boys. As a league, we felt this wasn’t acceptable, and have pushed for equity in these divisions.” 

“The key aspect of this was the lower rate, created an unnecessary barrier to participation for new girls wanting to umpire, as they’d be paid less for the grade best suited to them. With this change, AFL South Coast can be a leader in equitable pay rates for our umpires, showcasing our passion and commitment for inclusion.” 

In addition to the new pay rates, AFL South Coast have finalised their umpire coaching team for 2024, with two new members coming on board. Josh Spain returns as Head Field Umpire Coach, with experienced Premier Division umpire Tim Somerville joining as Assistant. Joel Spain also returns, continuing as Boundary Umpire Coach, whilst Brad Longhurst is the new Goal Umpire Coach.  

As part of a formal change to umpire education, Zac Joseph has had his role in the team restructured, now acting as a regional lead to online education. Zac will now be responsible for the delivery of online training sessions, and e-modules for the Southern region and plays an integral role in supporting those unable to attend face-to-face learning. 

Josh Spain highlighted the importance of locking in his full team early in pre-season and providing the best experience possible for his umpires. “If I had known I was going to have the coaching team locked in by March, I would have been stoked, so to have it finalised by February is even better.” 

“Not only are we satisfied with the quality and experience but locking us all in early on has allowed us to get organised and deliver a high-quality preseason for our umpires with the same quality expected for the season ahead.” 

“We are all really motivated by what we’re seeing in these early stages and can’t wait to advance the group over the course of the year.” 

White was also excited by the direction of umpiring on the South Coast, knowing there was still a lot to be done in supporting the growth of the group. “We are excited to see how our coaches can contribute to the development of our umpires this year. There will be no shortage of education and support for the group, including matchday coaching, and we are buoyed by the appointments that have been finalised.” 

“For us it was important to have some continuity, so to keep Josh and Joel Spain on board, as well as Zac Joseph is a great result. To then bring in the quality of Tim and Brad, we feel we have created a team that will only do good things for umpiring in the South Coast.” 

As part of the AFL South Coast’s commitment to growing umpiring, the league has secured 20 tickets to the Sydney Swans v Gold Coast Suns match. Two tickets will be randomly allocated to ten new umpires in 2024, that register before March 31.  

For people wishing to become an umpire for the first time, follow the prompts here. For returning umpires, register for the 2024 season here

AFL South Coast umpires train each Wednesday at Thomas Dalton Park from 6pm, with a Come and Try day for Shoalhaven based umpires scheduled for 6-7pm Friday March 8 at Vincentia Sports Ground. Throughout in-season 2024, Shoalhaven-based umpires will also receive a monthly local training session, with details of these still TBC.