This Umpire Appreciation Month, we have decided to highlight the important role that the people in the middle play. They often get a lot of stick but the umpire is who makes sure the game is played in the fairest possible manner whilst also ensuring the safety of all players.
This week we caught up with Peter Ross and spoke to him about his experiences as an AFL umpire.
Hi Peter, let’s start with an easy one. How long have you been umpiring?
I have been Umpiring since 2013
How did you get into AFL Umpiring? What was the pathway for you? (ie courses, coaching days etc?)
I dislocated my shoulder in the run up to the AFL Europe European Championships that were hosted in Dublin in August 2013. I was on the national team and was ready to play in our home championships but I didn’t have enough time to recover. I was happy to volunteer during the event and did the umpiring course that took place that week. I did goal umpire and then progressed to boundary umpire and actually was on the boundary for the Grand Final between Ireland and Great Britain Bulldogs, which was kind of strange considering I had hoped to play in that game.
Have you played footy before? Do you feel it has helped in your transition to becoming an umpire?
Yes I have played footy from 2011, although I had been to see the South Dublin Swans play before that as I knew some of the players. My wife is from Melbourne and all her family barrack for Collingwood so I would have watched them train several times when I was in Melbourne before I started playing. Yes, I think it is helpful playing to move to umpiring and I’m sure across most sports all umpires probably have some playing experience.
What would be your unique style? How would you say you manage a game?
I think communicating your decisions to the players is important and use the hand signals so players further away and spectators know why the whistle was blown.
As an umpire you may need a thick skin, especially the way some players may react to decisions in the heat of battle. Do you have a strategy to cope with this?
It is understandable in the heat of battle players may give out. I think as an umpire, don’t take it personally but also do not tolerate excessive backchat. If I have made an obvious mistake, I’d acknowledge it as errors happen for both umpires and players. You can only see from one angle so for that reason you may miss something but even with the video refs in rugby and looking from every angle and slow motion it can still take a long time to make a decision.
As AFL Ireland is quite a communal league where everyone knows everyone, do you feel it is a positive or negative thing in terms of gaining respect on field?
I’d say it was the same when I was playing GAA in Longford. You’d know all the referees and they might remember you! I think it is a positive.
Do you feel you have a better understanding of the game having played and umpired?
I think so, as an umpire you need to read the rulebook in detail, watch lots of footy to see how the professional umpires call things and keep updated with new rules. When I started playing I don’t think I read the rulebook, but just picked things up from watching games.
Would you encourage people looking to get into AFL that umpiring is a rewarding way to be a part of the sport?
Yes absolutely, it is quite similar to playing in that you get a decent run about and you need to stay focussed as you are always involved. It also keeps people involved even when they may not have the time required to play or they may find they enjoy umpiring more than playing. But it is common to combine playing and umpiring especially as our league grows with both men’s and women’s teams across different competitions, there is always a need for new umpires across all regions of the country.
Thank you to Peter, who kindly gave up his time to give us a bit more of an understanding of the thinking behind the work that the Umpires do for our game.
If anybody is interested in getting involved in AFL Ireland, playing, umpiring or anything else we encourage you to get in touch through our Facebook and Instagram pages.