After being recruited into umpiring by Kevin Smith, the last person to run a one-person (field umpire) AFL Grand Final, Dan Wild has seen himself umpire in one of Victoria’s leading Australian Football competitions, and has just finished his first season in AFL London.
With his first AFL Europe tournament just around the corner, Dan is looking forward to umpiring different players from different countries and seeing first hand the growth of the game on the continent.
“It will be good to experience different players from different countries playing AFL… So far, the experience [umpiring in AFL London] has been a very welcoming and fun time,” said Wild.
Coming from the Eastern Football League, one of the leading leagues in Victoria, Australia, Dan has plenty of experience in the game and sees the opportunity to umpire in Europe as a great chance to help pass on some valuable knowledge that he has gained from others.
Photo by Chris Powney Photography
“I’d love to umpire in a few different countries and meet a like-minded group of people who also love AFL football. I also like teaching so it would be a good opportunity to pass on the knowledge I have gained to others who haven’t had the same learning opportunities that I have,” said Wild.
For a number of umpires across Europe, they have had to learn a new game, along with the rules and positioning, from scratch as opposed to someone like Dan who has been involved with the game since school. The pressure that comes with umpiring tends to put people off from taking up the role, however, Dan believes the rewards are worth it.
Just some of the benefits that umpiring provide are the opportunity to meet new people, improve fitness, develop a number of skills relevant to everyday life, and even the opportunity to travel around Europe for major tournaments.
“In the UK, a lot of people have not had as much experience with the game so you can look at it from a learning perspective. It is always challenging to learn something new, however, the rewards you can get from being part of a team and being out exercising can be really fun,” said Wild.
Just like being part of a football team is the reason why so many people play the game, Dan’s favourite aspect of Australian Football is the camaraderie and being a meaningful part of a sport he has grown up with – without umpires there is no game.
While he hasn’t umpired in an AFL Europe tournament yet, he has already umpired a number of thrilling games, including a nail-biting game in AFL London.
“The closest match I have umpired was between Wandsworth Demons and North London Lions, which ended up being an exciting one-point win to the Demons. This was only the second or third game I had umpired in London and the crowd really dialled into the intensity at Motspur Park for the Wimbledon Hawks Ladies Day event,” said Wild.
On top of plenty of new experiences on the other side of the world to where he grew up, Dan says one of his favourite experiences so far was umpiring an AFL Masters game between Australia and Great Britain.
“In that match, Brent Staker (former West Coast player) was playing and showed his experience at the highest level of the sport with silky smooth skills, strong marking and running,” said Wild. “I have built up a great group of friends here in London and look forward to the many years to come.”
Angus Boyle – AFL Europe