Even though Nilss Lode grew up in Melbourne loving the game of Australian Football, it wasn’t until he umpired a practice game in Germany that he saw the game differently to spectating or playing.
As an umpire, there are a number of opportunities each game to see some outstanding bits of team or individual skill that spectators might only get a glimpse of, or not even see at all. Being out there in the midst of the action as an umpire can be the best place to be.
“We get the best view of the game and we’re not spectators! Sometimes I get to witness incredible individual or team passages of play during a game,” Lode said.
For Nilss, the opportunity to become an umpire started like many others have – after talking to a friend who loved the role so much.
So Nilss then decided to attend an AFL Europe umpire workshop. He wasn’t initially intending to become an umpire was interested by what was involved. However, after discussing the laws of the game in the workshop, he umpired the German Eagles national team in a practice match.
“It was a great thrill to umpire my first game with a dedicated umpire coach at my side and I decided I wanted to be an umpire going forward,” he said.
Since that first match, Nilss has umpired across Europe at a number of major tournaments such as the Champions League in The Netherlands, the ANZAC Cup in France, and England as well as his current home, Germany where he has umpired two AFLG Grand Finals.
While the majority of local Australian Football leagues across the world umpire with a two-umpire system during the home-and-away season, Nilss has been fortunate enough to experience and be part of a game with a three umpire system, which normally only occurs in finals.
As well as having such a great experience replicating the system that the state and national umpires use in Australia, Nilss also had AFL umpire Hayden Kennedy as a coach for this three-umpire system game.
“I’ll never forget that game as it was my first time umpiring with the three system, and I had Hayden Kennedy as a coach!” he said.
Nilss said he was quite nervous before the game but once the game started, and having a coach of Kennedy’s calibre (AFL umpire games record holder and current AFL Umpire Coaching Manager), helped him settle into the game.
Over the years, Nilss has continued to develop his umpiring skills thanks to his previous experiences and the support that he has received through opportunities like having AFL umpires part of major tournaments.
“I love to be part of the best game in the world.”
With the growth of the game continuing in Europe, and also the continued development of women’s football, hopefully Nilss will continue to be part of the AFL Europe community in the coming years as he continues to develop his ability to be the best he can and look forward to what’s next.