THE Warrnambool and District Football Umpires’ Association (WDFUA) is country Victoria’s top whistle-blowing group for season 2013.
AFL Victoria Country awarded the WDFUA its umpire group of the year honour as part of the AFL Victoria Country premiers’ dinner on Saturday night.
WDFUA president Jamie Lake and director of umpiring Arno Pennings received the award at the gala function at Melbourne’s Hilton on the Park.
Lake said the award recognised the hard work of the association executive and its members throughout the season.
He announced the honour to association members at the WDFUA senior presentation night the previous weekend, to a warm reception.
“I said ‘it’s not just an award for the committee, president, coaches and that, it’s an award for the hard work that the members put in’,” Lake said.
“Without the members, you don’t have an association. Every little bit counts. It’s what they do and what they get out of it. The response was very good, everybody was stoked we finally won it.”
The WDFUA had been a finalist for the award every year since its inception in 2010.
But an increased involvement in the community caught the eye of judges and led to the award.
Instead of fund-raising for itself, WDFUA members raised money for Warrnambool causes Peter’s Project and Providing for Pippa.
Among other initiatives, all coaches took part in the AFL umpire coach personal development program in Melbourne.
Head coach Dede Friebe was one of just seven umpires across the state to attend an AFL umpire coach leadership program, staged over three days.
The association had 15 members involved with the V/Line Academy, 14 of whom took charge in various interleague fixtures.
There were 102 umpires take charge of a match during season 2013, including 15 “green shirt umpires” — those in their first year in their roles.
Lake, a 26-year member, said he was proud to be involved with the WDFUA: “it’s a good family club”.
He predicted a bright future for the association, despite the ongoing battle to recruit enough umpires to officiate two leagues.
“Going forward with the Hampden league having two new sides, it’s been a breath of fresh air for us,” he said.
“We get to travel to Portland and Hamilton, different places we haven’t been before.”
“And with the way footy is going to change in the next three to five years, it’ll end up going to that central hub.
“Hopefully by that stage we get a bit more support from the AFL, financially with uniforms and green shirt packages.
“It’d be nice if we had a first-year umpire come in and they didn’t have to pay anything.”