Rawlings selected for AFL’s inaugural Female Umpiring Academy

The AFL has this week launched the National Female Umpiring Academy.

The new Academy is designed to create a pathway for young female umpires and to increase the number of female umpires officiating in both the Toyota AFL Premiership Season and the NAB AFL Women’s Competition.

AFL NSW/ACT’s Victoria Rawlings has been selected as one of the two non-Victorians to take part in the inaugural group of National Female Umpiring Academy members after building years of experience in Sydney.

Rawlings made history in 2017, becoming only the second female to umpire an AFL Sydney Men’s Premier Division match – a feat the AFL is keen to see more of. As a part of the NEAFL Umpire Development squad, Rawlings also officiated several AFL Women’s matches in 2017 and 2018 and says it’s an honour to be involved in the new program.

“It’s great to be able to represent AFL NSW/ACT and I think it speaks to the ongoing investment that they have had in my development over the past three years,” says Rawlings.

“In that way it makes me feel thankful too, especially to my coach Damian Anderson. Being part of the group makes me feel rewarded for all of my hard work so far, but also has really motivated me to keep improving my umpiring.

“It also makes me feel proud to be part of the AFL and their ongoing commitment to increasing women’s participation in every part of the game.”

Recently, the six Umpires included in this inaugural Academy were invited to Melbourne for a weekend of development. Working in with the first female to Field Umpire an AFL game, Eleni Glouftsis and renowned sports psychotherapists and strength and conditioning coaches during this time, Rawlings says she has already been greatly influenced by the program.

“We concluded this experience by attending a match at the MCG with access to the umpires rooms and coaching boxes. These were really inspiring and have already altered my approach to umpiring and my skill set.

“Programs like these can make a genuine difference to our performance as umpires – differences that are reflected in every part of our game day execution.”

There are currently 15,300 Australian Football umpires throughout the country, however, only nine per cent, or 1433 umpires, are female.

AFL Head of Umpiring, Grant Williams said the Academy objective is to fast-track the development of female umpires who have or who are likely to officiate at a national level.

“The success of AFL umpires Eleni Glouftsis and Chelsea Roffey has created a pathway for young female umpires to reach the highest level,” said Williams.

“This program will complement the on-field development of the state umpiring departments by providing additional coaching and mentoring during camps and tutorial sessions over a nine-month period.

“We hope develop umpires for both the AFL and the AFLW.”

Head of Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone said the outstanding growth of women’s football creates demand for more umpires.

“The 76 per cent growth of women’s teams throughout the country last year creates opportunities for coaches, administrators, players and umpires,” she said.

“We need more umpires to cope with the many more games country and suburban leagues now manage and this is another way women can be involved and excel in the game.

“Pleasingly we did see a 15 per cent increase of female umpires in 2017.

“While we did have two female umpires selected for the 2018 NAB AFLW Grand Final, during the AFLW season only 25 per cent of all umpires across all disciplines were female. By fast-tracking female umpires’ development we will be able to see this percentage improve.

“I look forward to watching the development of the young umpires now in the Academy and hope to see them in action during the 2019 AFLW season.”

Next for Rawlings is the aspiration to officiate her first NEAFL match.

“I’m not sure how long that will take, but I know the Academy is giving me the best possible skills to do so.

“Continuing to umpire AFLW is an ongoing goal of mine as well – it’s an incredibly exciting competition to be a part of, and meaningful to me as I’ve emerged from the women’s football pathway.

“Every game in the AFLW is a career highlight and I hope to do as many games in that competition as I can.”

The inaugural National Female Umpiring Academy members are: Bronte Annand (VFL Development Umpire, 2018 AFLW Rookie Umpire), Genevieve Devenish (VFL Rookie Umpire, Eastern Football League), Courtney Gibson (VFL Development Umpire, 2017 & 2018 AFLW Umpire), Annie Mirabile (VFL Senior Umpire, 2018 AFLW Grand Final Umpire), Victoria Rawllings (AFL NSW Senior Umpire, 2017 & 2018 AFLW Umpire), Gabby Simmonds (WAFL Reserves Umpire, 2018 AFLW Grand Final Standby Umpire).

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