By Sam Watson
LAST month, Jake Dennerley debuted as a field umpire for the South Gippsland Umpires Association.
The 16-year-old from Inverloch was given the Korumburra Bena vs Garfield matchup and from all reports he did an outstanding job with whistle in hand.
Then, a week later, the Wonthaggi Secondary College student received the Kilcunda Bass vs Nar Nar Goon game where he performed brilliantly.
Dennerley first started boundary umpiring reserves games at Inverloch-Kongwak as a 9-year-old and in 2019 he joined the SGUA.
Dennerley, who currently plays under 16s for IK, said the jump from reserves to seniors meant he could get a bit more pocket money, but he was always interested in experiencing the challenge of being an umpire.
His first year at the SGUA was capped off with a spot on the boundary for the West Gippsland FNC reserves grand final.
But in 2021 he decided to make the move to the middle of the ground.
“I had a think about it at the start of the season and a few rounds in I decided that I’d give it a crack,” Dennerley said.
“I found that I enjoyed it a bit more than boundary umpiring, so I thought why not start heading towards getting a senior game.”
His first game as field umpire came in the thirds at Leongatha when the Parrots hosted Wonthaggi Power.
And Dennerley said he wasn’t too fazed by the pressure of the role.
“I was a bit nervous, but once you walk out on the field and you concentrate on what you’ve got to do, the nerves sort of slip away.”
And it was much the same when he got the senior call up for Korumburra Bena vs Garfield.
“I was actually surprisingly alright. I didn’t really feel nervous at all, I just thought of it as another game, go out there, call what you see and do your job,” he said.
As far as performance goes, Dennerley said he was pretty happy with how he went.
“I felt I went alright, I think I got most of the calls pretty accurate, and the players were fairly happy with our performance out there.”
In his short time at the SGUA, Dennerley has grown very fond of the camaraderie at the club.
“It’s a good little community, it’s pretty much like a footy club and everyone’s really down to earth,” Dennerley said.
“They’re really good, there’s some great people and they’re all really supportive.”
Dennerley hasn’t encountered too many difficulties in his umpiring career so far, but he said the hardest thing is balancing his under 16s game for IK in the morning with his responsibilities for the SGUA in the afternoon.
“There’s a bit of planning to make sure I can get from one place to another in time,” Dennerley said.
“But the SGUA have been really good with where they put me and really considerate with travel times and all that.”
His mum Teresa or his Nan often have the responsibility of driving him between grounds, but he occasionally can score a lift with one of his umpiring colleagues.
Ultimately, Dennerley loves every moment he’s out on the footy field, whether that’s playing or umpiring, and his cool head bodes very well for his future in the sporting world.