Pictures: Derek Clarke
By Michael McCormick
What does Dr Karl Kennedy and a street party in Geelong have in common? They both played a significant role in introducing the game of AFL to WARFL Umpiring Coordinator and AFL Europe Umpire, Josh Davey.
Davey, a former player turned umpire, admitted that his first memory of AFL was seeing Dr Karl Kennedy playing it on Australian soap opera, ‘Neighbours.’
It wasn’t until recently however that he explored his interest further by becoming involved with a local club.
“I saw a video online of what seemed like the whole of Geelong out on the street partying after their Grand Final win,” stated Davey. “I then watched a couple of videos on YouTube, discovered I had a local club and went and had a go.”
Davey’s umpiring career began when he volunteered with his local league during weeks in which he was injured. He then took the opportunity to be involved in the 2013 European Championships in Dublin.
“I offered my services to AFL Europe as a volunteer,” explained Davey. “There I discovered they were holding a Level 1 Umpires course and decided to get involved with that.”
Davey continued to grow as an umpire and went from strength to strength after the European Championships.
Being selected as a field umpire for the AIS-AFL Academy vs European Legion Easter Series game stands out as one of his finest moments.
“Having played for the first Legion I knew the skill level of the players would be extremely high and to be considered good enough to umpire them was a huge honour.”
The dream for many European AFL aficionados is to travel to Australia and play the great game at a professional level. Davey however has slightly different endeavours.
“Whilst some players stay after the International Cup to try and work their way up to the very top as players, I’d love the chance to do the same as a whistle man.”
Davey described Australian Football as an exhilarating game to spectate due to its fluidity and the athleticism of the players.
“It is such a beautiful game to watch, and the very best place to watch it is from the middle of the park.”
For those who want to have the same seat on the ground as him, Davey offered these words of wisdom;
“Be confident in your actions and abilities and don’t be afraid to blow your whistle. Think about mistakes after the game, but on the ground, show presence and the players will respond positively.”
Taking marks on other players’ shoulders is what makes Australian Football the greatest game in the world, at least according to AFL Germany Umpiring Coordinator, Nilss Lode.
Melbourne born Lode, who grew up playing Australian Football in his lunch breaks at primary school, began his umpiring career as a result of an AFL Europe initiative to develop local umpires.
“I initially didn’t even consider attending or umpiring,” he said. “One of my team mates enjoyed umpiring more than playing, and that kind of sparked enough interest to see what it is all about.”
During his Level 0 course he was thrown in the deep end, being made to umpire a practice match for the German national team.
“There were so many decisions to be made quickly and I really enjoyed the challenge and decided that I wanted to pursue umpiring further.”
Since that initial experience, Lode has improved his skill and expertise to the point in which he is now sought out for major events across Europe.
A high level of commitment and an eagerness to learn at the highest level has enabled his steady improvement.
“Umpiring at three Euro Cup tournaments enabled me to work alongside more experienced umpires than myself and learn from their advice.”
Lode is currently working towards Level 2 accreditation to further develop his own skills and those of the umpires he coordinates.
He encourages aspiring umpires to go to a local match as a spectator and make the umpiring decisions in their head to compare with what the umpire decides.
“Know the actual official rules, rather than what commentators explain on TV as they are, in my opinion, often wrong.”
Combining a passion for travel and a love of the great game makes umpiring Australian Football more than just a hobby for Danish umpire, Niels Schønnemann-Rosberg.
He came across Australian Football after a chance meeting with his cousin at the ripe age of seventeen.
“I bumped into one of my cousins during the summer of ’99 and he invited me down to the local footy club,” he said. “The rest is history.”
His history as a player is extensive however his umpiring career is still in its infancy.
“I started to umpire full time in 2010 as I needed a challenge other than playing football,” he stated.
“I wasnt quite ready to leave, so I thought that umpiring could be a way to stay in the game.”
As most local games in Denmark are umpired by players in their bye rounds, the professionalism of umpiring isn’t a major focus.
Because of this, Schønnemann-Rosberg had to make special efforts to progress his umpiring ambitions.
“Andrew Jones and Shane Hill helped me go through the AFL level 1 program via some travelling and a lot of skype sessions.”
After completing his Level 1 AFL Umpiring course, Schønnemann-Rosberg has been called upon for some of the biggest events in Europe and the world.
“My initial goal was to umpire at the 2011 International Cup, which I did,” he said. “I then got to umpire the Grand final of the 2013 Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux.”
Despite being a rising star of the umpiring fraternity, Schønnemann-Rosberg remains humble about his ambitions.
“At the moment I like to umpire locally and then travel to the European tournaments where I receive feedback from other umpires on my performance.”
Despite having already accomplished a great amount, he doesn’t underestimate the importance of continuous learning and refining.
“Your performance will improve significantly if you learn and apply great positioning and communication to players and officials during a game,” he said.
“They will trust or at least respect your judgement, if you do this.”
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