After a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2015, Laurie Rupe didn’t want to give up the sport so during a United States Australian Football League regional tournament, she put her hand up to be a goal umpire. After that first game, she contacted her national umpiring coach and since then, umpiring has taken Laurie all over the world, including Europe.
Umpiring is a perfect way to stay involved with the game for many former players who have had to stop playing due to injury or other reasons. Umpires get the best view of the action, seeing magical goals and marks from a front row seat.
It’s not just the on-field action though, the umpiring community is a great way to meet new people, and Laurie says that’s her favourite part of Australian Football.
“There are so many amazing people connected to the sport and some of my closest friends are people I have met through Australian Football,” she said.
For Laurie, her umpiring journey is quite unique because of the places she has travelled to. Living in America, where the game is growing while trying to compete with soccer, baseball, basketball and American Football, amongst others, means Laurie travels not just all over the country to umpire games, but she also puts her hand up to travel and umpire in Europe.
At a local level this year, Laurie has booked tickets to the three regional USAFL tournaments, on top of an amazing experience of travelling to Colombia in May to umpire a match between a Denver Bulldogs men’s team, a combined USAFL women’s team and the Bogota Bulldogs men’s and women’s teams.
In the past, umpiring has taken her “all over the US, Amsterdam and Bordeaux, Australia for the International Cup and now Colombia”, an incredible list of places to be part of the Australian Football community.
Even though she lives in the US, Laurie still regularly flies over to Europe to be part of the various tournaments held on the continent, and some of her fondest memories are of tournaments on the continent.
“Bordeaux [is my favourite place I’ve umpired in Europe] for sure. I’m fluent in French so any chance I get to travel to France I will take. I had never been to Bordeaux before, so I got to explore the city and see the Dune du Pilat after the tournament. I also won the golden whistle at that tournament, so it is an extra special place for me,” she said.
While Bordeaux is her favourite place she has umpired at, one of her favourite umpiring moments took place at the 2017 International Cup in Melbourne.
“At IC17, I was part of two games that were an all USAFL umpiring crew. The first game was China versus Indonesia and the second game was hands down my favourite game at the IC, it was the USA Liberty (women’s development team) versus Oakleigh (a local club) and both teams were so thankful to have a full crew of quality umpires there,” she said.
“Also, the field had some flood lights around, but it wasn’t really enough to light up the entire field, so it was a tough game to umpire because certain parts of the field, it was hard to see the ball or the players. After the game, there was a huge BBQ for everyone, and we all had such a good time interacting with the players. That game and the BBQ basically sums up everything that I love about footy.”
Looking into the future, Laurie hopes to continue travelling the world for umpiring. She has plenty of tournaments to work towards this year, while the International Cup in Australia, the pinnacle of Australian Football for people across the globe, will be her goal for 2020. There is always plenty of competition for spots on the umpiring list, but Laurie’s experience will give herself every chance on getting on that list and umpiring at another illustrious International Cup.