FOOTBALL umpire Tom Horsten knows his path to the top must include small steps.
The Cavendish teenager has an ambition to one day run the boundary in an AFL match.
But the goal, while achieveable, won’t arrive overnight — something he is well aware of.
“Obviously the AFL is a long-term goal but I’ve got to plan different goals to get there,” he said.
The next milestone in his umpiring career rolls around in January, when he trials for a spot in the V/Line umpires’ development squad.
Squad members take charge of VFL development league and TAC Cup matches to gain experience and hone their craft.
Impressive performances with the whistle at that level can lead to appointments for VFL, and then AFL, matches.
“I’m hoping I’ll be umpiring down in Melbourne every week. I’ve already moved to Ballarat to be a bit closer to Melbourne,” he said.
In the meantime, Horsten, 19, is still soaking up the adulation for his latest achievement as a boundary umpire.
The Western District Umpires Association member is the new AFL Victoria Country umpire of the year.
Horsten received the accolade, the Rowan Sawyers Medal, at the AFL Victoria Country premiers’ dinner in Melbourne on the weekend.
The honour comes after a breakout season which included selection for two representative matches.
He ran the boundary for the Hampden versus Sunraysia interleague clash in May and the Country versus Amateur under 19 match in July.
He was also one of just eight umpires to take part in a four-day development camp in Melbourne, receiving guidance from those who have come before him.
Horsten said he was “absolutely honoured” and “rather surprised” to receive the medal.
“It’s the one award, it’s only given out to one person every year, it’s a prestigious award, it’s not something you see around often,” he said.
“I had heard of the award but I didn’t realise it was given to local umpires, I thought it was a high-level award for AFL umpires.”
Horsten began umpiring about a decade ago, when he was nine, after realising his brother earned $100 for running the boundary for Cavendish. He spent three years helping out the South West District league club before graduating to the Hamilton-based WDUA.
Selection for senior Western Border league matches followed when he was 13 and he has risen through the ranks since.
Horsten said he preferred boundary umpiring because of the stamina it requires — “field umpiring doesn’t have the distance to cover”.
He said his playing career lasted as far as Auskick before umpiring commitments took over.
“That’s what stood out for everyone at the dinner, they were surprised I had never played,” he said.
“At nine I grew too tall and had no build about me. Mum said you might want to umpire until you grow into your body a bit.”