VFL umpire Liam Pain. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

MAKING your way through the footballing ranks does not only revolve around the players.

The umpiring ranks are just as competitive, but Sunraysia Football Umpires Association (SFUA) graduate Liam Pain is making good ground in the VFL.

The 22-year-old boundary umpire is in his third season at that level, and has an eye on potentially reaching the AFL ranks.

Liam, who was back in Mildura last week, juggles his umpiring commitments with study. He is in his final year at Deakin University to become a PE teacher.

Liam said his five seasons spent as an umpire officiating Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) and Millewa Football League (MFL) was a great training base for his introduction into TAC Cup and VFL umpiring.

“Here (Sunraysia) is a good high standard, but it definitely goes up a notch at VFL level with the competitiveness and that aim to be a bit more of a professional outfit,” he said.

“It’s like being part of a footy club in itself. It is competitive and everyone is pushing for your spots. I love it actually.

“At sessions in Sunraysia you might cover four or five kilometres. In Melbourne it is the same distance in perhaps half the time, but you’re also expected to cover anywhere from 60km to 80km a week in your own time.

“I’ve always loved running, so the distance isn’t an issue for me. The great thing about the city is there are always people wanting to go for a run so you’re never short of people to train with.

“We only spend the two nights actually training as a group but we will spend a fair bit of time analysing our games as a group and on our own, as well as the fitness side of things.

“I get paid to run and to watch footy. I couldn’t think of anything better.”

Liam said there are a number of VFL umpires who juggle study with games each weekend.

“Umpiring is one of those things where you get out what you put into it. Obviously the more you put in, the better off you will be,” he said.

“Some of my best mates are from the SFUA, and some of the senior umpires get in touch to see how I’m going and to stay up to date.

“I’m hoping to get a position in the finals this year. I’m confident I’ve done pretty well so far but there is a fair way to go in the season yet.”