Choosing umpiring over playing

Josh Hollands came to umpiring as so many do: “I needed a part time job and thought getting to run around and umpire games of footy would be perfect,” he said. Then 15 years old, Hollands never expected umpiring to play such a large part in his life. Seven years since his first match, he is now an umpiring coordinator with AFL NSW/ACT and he umpires AFL Sydney every weekend.

Hollands was a promising half forward flanker with St George AFC Dragons when he first pulled on his umpiring kit. After four years of playing and umpiring, he chose to specialise in his passion, putting away the mouthguard and trading it or a whistle.

“I enjoy controlling the game,” he said. “I like to make decisions and be a strong leader on the field, but I also like bringing a bit of fun and personality to the game. It’s footy, it has to be fun for everyone.”

Of course, Hollands has had other jobs – at a butcher’s , as a swimming teacher – but none give him the same purpose and satisfaction of officiating a game of Australian rules. “Umpiring is more than getting out and paying frees,” he said, “It’s about learning life skills, having great experiences and forging life long friendships.”

As for the big questions:

Do you bounce?

“Yes, but it’s not perfect and I want to get it right before trying it out in a match.”

Who’s your favourite umpire?

“It has to be Ray Chamberlain. He’s straight with the players, he’s honest and respectful.”

What’s your favourite rule?

“Holding the ball! So much theatre, such a great build-up.”

Hollands aspires to be an elite umpire, although understands it’s a competitive business. There are more than 15,000 umpires in Australia officiating matches each week.

Anyone interested in umpiring should visit

26 April to 2 May 2021 is Community Umpiring Week. Thank you to all umpires – without you, we couldn’t play.


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