GIRLS IN GREEN: Emma Martin, Kelly Winslade, Hayley Breewell and Erin Williams are flying the flag for female football umpires in the Sunraysia Football Umpires Association. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

FEMALES in football have been receiving their deserved recognition in recent times.

From players to officials and administrators, ladies play an important role in the future of the sport.

In Sunraysia, nine female umpires are in control of the game through the Sunraysia Football Umpires Association (SFUA).

The most experienced of the group is Hayley Breewell, who began officiating in 1999.

“I started out as a 15-year-old,” Hayley said.

“I was into athletics and I saw umpiring as a way to keep fit during winter when there wasn’t any competition.

“I started off as a boundary umpire until 2007 when I became a central umpire.

“Since then I’ve only had four years off and that was to have kids.”

Hayley’s husband, Michael, is also an umpire, and the family are usually found around the SFUA clubrooms.

The family affair grew as Hayley convinced her sister Erin Williams to join her.

“I began the year after Hayley, but goal umpiring has always been my area,” Erin said.

The duo are helping to develop the next generation of female umpires.

Kelly Winslade always loved football, and her decision to become a boundary umpire in 2009 was an easy one.

“I love footy and keeping fit and healthy so I thought this was a good way to combine the two,” the 22-year-old said.

”When I first started I would get a few comments from players about being a girl out on the field, but over time and as people got to know me, that became less and less.

“A few families have actually commented to me that their daughter has considered umpiring because they’ve seen me run the boundary. That’s a pretty cool thing to hear.”

Emma Martin came through the Auskick program, but knew it would become difficult to continue playing junior footy with the boys.

The 16-year-old joined the SFUA in 2011 and enjoys being part of the umpiring ranks.

“Umpiring was an opportunity to stay as close to the action as I could get,” she said.

Hayley said the majority of players within the Sunraysia Football and Netball League were respectful of having female umpires officiate their games.

“Sometimes we can see some players do a double take but for the most part they respond well,”

“It’s a hard job to get people involved in because they have seen the way some people respond to umpires.

“We like to focus on the benefits. It’s a great way to be close to the game, you get to keep fit and there is a financial incentive as well.

SFUA trainings take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights at City Oval, combining running and fitness and skill development and game simulation.

For further information on how to join the umpiring ranks, visit sfua.org.au.