By Nathan Johnston

THE South Gippsland Umpires Association has a severe shortage of field umpires and the situation could become worse as those who are left are quickly burning out.
Association committeeman and 300-plus game umpire Scott Hillis said most of the available umpires are doing two matches every Saturday – a junior match and then seniors later.
Scott’s been strapped to the GPS and clocked 25km in a day, which he said is not sustainable.
“We can’t sugar coat it anymore. It’s pretty bad at the moment. Most guys are doing two games every weekend and we’re running out of legs.”
He said the workload is not just having a physical impact.
“If we’ve been given a Fourths game on Phillip Island, we leave home at 8am, and by the time you do the seniors later, you don’t get home until 8pm.
“We used to have three umpires for every senior game, but now 90 per cent of the games we can only provide two.”
The SGUA provides umpires to the Alberton league, this end of the West Gippsland competition and Leongatha and Wonthaggi’s home games in the Gippsland League.
He said if the situation continues, clubs will be forced to provide their own umpires for Thirds games.
“We haven’t done the Seconds for four or five years and we can’t do the juniors on a Sunday.”
Umpires from the Latrobe Valley were called in to umpire a match at Tarwin recently.
“I’m not sure what’s causing the shortage but we’re not getting enough in.”
Scott said he was concerned this stretch on resources could affect the standard of umpiring.
“It used to take two or three years of umpiring in the juniors and then the reserves before you would be considered for a senior game.
“Kids are going into the seniors a lot faster than we’d like them to.”
Scott said local crowds and players seem to understand the situation.
“There are umpire escorts now and we don’t have the abuse from the sidelines like we used to. There’s not the same abuse from players either. There’s definitely more respect.”
The solution, Scott says, is to encourage ex-players to get involved.
“Daniel Hawking played at interleague level and just joined us last week. He umpired has first Thirds game on the weekend.
“That’s exactly what we want – someone who understands the game and can pick up umpiring straight away.
“Jesse Boyd played plenty of senior footy and he umpired the West Gippsland grand final last year after only three years of umpiring.”
It’s also a nice little earner at $120 per senior game, or more if there are just two umpires.
“It pays for a holiday to Bali at the end of the season for me!” Scott said.
“Seriously, though, it is a good way to keep fit and stay involved in the game.”
Training is held from 6pm every Wednesday night at the Leongatha Velodrome.
It’s certainly not too late to get involved this season.