Amy at home in the middle of the action

Umpire Amy Clapp gives direction in the Merrivale versus Kolora-Noorat match, flanked by Power player Nathan Cahir. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Umpire Amy Clapp gives direction in the Merrivale versus Kolora-Noorat match, flanked by Power player Nathan Cahir. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

AMY Clapp is the only female central umpire running around football ovals in the Warrnambool district.

But that means little to the reigning Warrnambool and District Football Umpires’ Association whistleblower of the year.

Any labels of her being a trailblazer come from others. She just enjoys the responsibility of being in the middle.

“I guess after doing the boundary it’s just the normal thing to do,” Clapp, 20, said yesterday.

“Now there aren’t as many central umpires around, they don’t see many girls. It’d be different for the players but it’s no different for the umpires.”

The fact she’s a female isn’t the only reason Clapp, a sports science student at Federation University at Ballarat, stands out.

Her development and confidence with a whistle in hand has also caught the eye of her coaches and the broader football public.

Clapp, the daughter of renowned WDFUA member Malcolm Clapp, spent six years running the boundary before making her central debut in 2012.

She spent that year splitting her time between the boundary and the centre but has focused solely on making the big decisions in 2013 and 2014.

Her senior central debut was a 2013 Warrnambool and District league fixture between Russells Creek and Deakin University, at Mack Oval.

Few of her appointments since have been reserves or junior fixtures. She’s now regularly in charge when the best WDFNL sides face off.

“There’s a lot more concentration involved and there’s a lot more intensity in the middle. You’ve got to get in there and pay the right decision,” she said.

“I’ve handled it fine. I feel as though I don’t take anything to heart, it’s about what I see and people see everything differently.”

Clapp, who hopes to make her Hampden league senior debut later this season, said she’d been encouraged by attitudes of the players around her.

“They’re all pretty happy there is a female out there. There’s a little bit more respect but it goes both ways, we respect the players and the coaches as well,” she said.

Making her Hampden league senior debut has become her next goal, one WDFUA director of umpiring Arno Pennings shares.

Pennings said Clapp was one of just four females to take charge of the centre in the past decade — after Zoe Pennings, Pauline Pennings and Karen Anderson.

“Amy is in a development stage. She’s going really well. She won our Golden Whistle last year,” he said.

“A goal of hers is to do a Hampden league senior game before the end of the year. We’re working with her to get her to that level.”

Pennings acknowledged there was pressure on female umpires, whether they officiated in the centre, on the boundary or behind the goals.

Football is becoming increasingly less a man’s world. But the welcome sight of females having key roles in the sport still turns heads.

“Because they are female, people are looking to see how well they perform,” Pennings said.

“Especially with women’s football so big around the state, hopefully some of them say ‘I want to take it further’.

“We’ve always had a good contingency of females and they put a bit of pressure on the males.

“There are possibly one or two others I’d really like to do central but because of study and so forth, that’s put on the backburner.”

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