AFL NSW/ACT Umpires Recognised at VFL Awards Night

By Josh Dunstall


AFL NSW/ACT listed VFL umpires, Samuel Nippress (field) and Harrison Hansford (boundary), have each taken home a major award at last week’s VFL and VFLW Awards Night.

Nippress’ excellent 2023 campaign was rewarded, named the VFL Field Umpire of the Year Award, while Hansford received the AFL NSW/ACT VFL Rising Star Award after another great year on the boundary in the VFL.

Nippress became the first umpire ever from Canberra to receive the VFL Field Umpire of the Year Award and attributes his success in 2023 to his experience and the coaching he has received.

“I think just having more experience under my belt has really helped and the quality of the coaching at the VFL at the moment is pretty well second-to-none, the people that they have got involved in the program really have a great track record behind them and so it’s been really good to learn from them,” he said.

In addition to nearly three years in the VFL setup, Sam Nippress has 14 career AFLW matches since debuting in 2020, while clocking up 71 NEAFL matches between 2015 and 2019.

Another way that he has developed his umpiring in 2023 was by staying committed to his ‘umpiring craft’ and continuously learning and improving.

“I think it’s just about building consistency over a long period of time and remaining committed to the craft,” he said. “The game is evolving all the time and the demands on us are evolving all the time so continuing to want to learn and develop and not being satisfied with where you are at any one time but continuing to strive to improve and leaning on the resources that we do have, which are really good at the moment.”

The 27-year-old first umpired in Central Australia, encouraged by his father and sister, who were umpires, before moving to Canberra for university studies.

“I moved for uni and got linked in with the AFL Canberra group pretty quickly and had the opportunity with NEAFL at the time, having a couple of Canberra-based teams to effectively trial for a NEAFL spot at the start of that year, which was the start of 2015.”

When asked about the AFL list and whether that is a goal of his going forward, Nippress remained realistic.

“I think all of us, once you’re at this level, you’re always striving to improve and striving for that next step and so getting to the AFL would be great, but I am realistic about how competitive it is to get on the list as well.”

Boundary umpire, Harrison Hansford, has grown as an umpire tremendously in 2023, going one better than a season ago, officiating the 2023 VFL Preliminary Final.

Hansford has been battling injuries throughout his umpiring career but still strung together a strong 2018 State League campaign and a strong 2019 AFLW campaign before reluctantly taking time off umpiring the following two years as a result of knee issues.

He came back to umpiring in 2022 and the NSW/ACT Rising Star in 2023, despite continuously trying to improve his own individual umpiring, continues to show great support and respect to his umpiring peers, coaches and high-performance staff.

Hansford has adhered to the values of VFL umpiring and has actively seeked out umpiring development opportunities, while committing to the high standards he has for himself.

Congratulations to both Harrison and Samuel on their respective awards, following a tremendous season in the VFL.