NSW/ACT Umpires in the NTFL

Earlier in the season we had NSW/ACT Field umpires head up to the Northern Territory to be involved in the NTFL Community Football seasons. Callum Loaney & James Davidson have shared their experience in the NTFL.

Callum Loaney – AFL Canberra Field Umpire:

“I didn’t even know where I was sleeping that night, or how long I would last, but not even a week after the AFL grand final my plane touched down in Darwin. The day I Ianded it had frosted in Canberra that morning, so I arrived, with warm jeans and a hoodie on, only to be met by 37 degrees and 85% humidity. Best of all, there was a massive thunderstorm that evening, so by the first night I was already questioning my decision to come up.” 

“Umpiring games up here takes a bit of getting used to. Some matches you’ll be wishing for the sun to go away, other days you’ll complain that the sun isn’t out enough, you can never seem to win. The group up here is fantastic however, and we all help each other through both training and game days as one team. For us interstaters, we were running around 5-7 times a week. This included our senior game on Saturday, Juniors on Friday and Sundays, with lower grade seniors as midweek fixtures (we all loved the 12-minute quarters). It could be a challenge getting up for multiple games, sometimes on the same day, or feeing how the game has changed during time on in the 4th quarter.” 

“Alongside this, I was given the opportunity to mentor and coach junior umpires midweek, which is always rewarding. The group up here is so welcoming, I have made so many friends that I am keeping contact with even after the season. We say that umpiring is a great way to find mates and I can say that certainly is the truth.” 

“Easily the biggest thing I learnt was how important eating and drinking right is. When you’re losing multiple litres of sweat per game, your body needs to be fuelled correctly. I found myself regularly emptying the tank at the end of games, there was no junk running that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I learnt this the hard way by poorly preparing and cramping up badly in only my second game! Having a meal with lots of carbs and protein both the night before and a few hours before your game is major. Salt and magnesium help keep the cramps away, and hydralyte is just a godsend up here. But coming back to umpire down south, this is something I will take with me, as I’ll never forget that second game.” 

“While I could say that my best moment was my first rep match, umpiring in the Kakadu national park, or even being able to go on the boat trip over to the Tiwi Islands for a game, umpiring the NTFL Men’s Premier League Grand Final was my best experience. The crowd was the biggest I have ever been in front of, about the same as an AFL game. It was loud, raucous, and electric. To hear them yell “ball” or roar for a goal was incredible from the middle, it really made me appreciate how cool umpiring can be, instead of in the back row, I was in the middle of it all! The skill level was phenomenal, and it challenged me to umpire as best as I could, I was running with purpose that’s for sure!”

“I’ll absolutely be back for the NTFL season in 2023/24 after umpiring games in NSW/ACT. The last 6 months I have been always umpiring, just living and breathing footy. I’m glad I stayed after that first night.”

James Davidson – AFL Sydney Field Umpire:

“It’s what gets everyone that’s from the south, hitting the ground for the first time in Darwin and it being the middle of the night but still warm and sticky with a cool 27*c, the shock is something I will never forget. I got appointed to run my first game the day after landing, your standard Under 14 boys game with 48 minutes of match time but it’s almost 40*c and you’re soaking up all the ice cold rags you can so you can get through the match. I wasn’t ever an unfit kid growing up but this definitely made me feel sore, crook and concerned of what was to come. Can’t ignore the torrential rain that came and went either, at times in games where you are frequently criticised for not seeing a free kick at the best of times, now you have to deal with having heavy, consistent droplets of water in front of you along with swamp like ground conditions which made umpiring in the wet no easier than the hot and humid days.”

“It was probably the biggest sporting and lifestyle challenge I have ever faced. I started to acclimatise after a few weeks which assisted in me running out games less fatigued and with greater fitness and I started to enjoy getting out and running all day and everyday. Darwin really had some phenomenal characters in the umpiring community. The crew of locals and interstate umpires were sensational individuals, a diverse range of people from different levels of umpiring and life experience meant there was always something special about everyone which made it easy to share a laugh and a yarn with the group. I will forever cherish the friendships and bonds I have established from my time in the territory.” 

Best moment:

“Having my Premier Division debut announced to the group at training out of the blue and having the team get around me was a special feeling. Adding to the festivities by having my great mate Cypress present my numbered shirt for the game was a massive highlight! 

Coaching and mentoring young talent always has its wonderful moments and was no different in Darwin. Being able to watch young umpires grow and improve with every match they officiate is incredibly fulfilling and makes every moment I commit to getting out and supporting them really worthwhile.” 

Biggest learning curve: 

“Just how important it is to run smarter, not harder, even when you want to show off those Strava KM’s every week. Being able to acknowledge and progressively work with your teammates and coaches to improve your ability as an umpire, success doesn’t happen and to reach your goals you do have to be maintain discipline and commit to small targets to get where you want to be.”