Overview

Since the inception of the State League in 1903, umpires have been an integral part of Australian Football in NSW. It was not until 1930, however, that an Umpires Association was formalised in NSW.

The NSWAFUA is reported to be the first in Australia to wear an Association pocket on its running uniform. Worn in the Association’s inaugural year of 1930, the pocket was a map of Australia, containing the Association name inside. Unfortunately, the wearing of this pocket ceased in 1949. Uniform pockets were reintroduced in 1962, this time incorporating the NSW State floral emblem, the Waratah. This pocket was updated in the 1980s, retaining the Waratah motif, until the pockets were once again abandoned in 1999. Nonetheless, the Waratah is still the key feature of the Association logo today.

The initial NSWAFL senior grade grand final was umpired by G. Hallett in 1903. This was followed by Rev Hicks the following year, who was to start a long alliance between the Clergy and umpiring in Sydney. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Association had both a Baptist Minister and a Catholic Priest umpiring at the same time! Since then there have been a number of clergy of different denominations officiate with the Association.

Apart from supplying umpires to the NSW State League, umpires have also been supplied to the Riverina League in 1930, and to the South Coast League in 1973. Boundary Umpires were first introduced for Sunday Reserve Grade games in 1960, but it was not until 1965 that all Reserve Grade games were supplied.

Over the past seventy five years, the Association has also been involved in the social scene. During the 1970’s the Umpires Ball was a highlight of the local football calendar, with plenty of participation from local clubs.  It was at this time that the Association decided it should endeavour to obtain premises and become a licensed club. To this end, steps were taken to incorporate the Association as a company, which finally occurred on March 16, 1976. This made the Association the first incorporated Umpires Association in Australia. However, by this time much had changed in both the real estate and club scene in Sydney, and the original plans for a club were put aside. On March 4, 1991 the Association changed its structure to become an incorporated body under the Associations Incorporation Act of NSW.

The NSWAFUA has held meetings in many locations over the years. These have included sports clubs, ex-service clubs, town halls, hotel rooms, League rooms and at football ovals. Training was not officially organised until 1965, and has since been conducted in many areas around Sydney – from open parkland and university grounds, to athletics clubs and football ovals. Venues have included Erskenville Oval, Fraser Park, Moore Park, Picken Oval, E. S. Marks Field, Alexandria Park, Rotary Field, Trumper Park, Chatswood Oval and Wyatt Park. In 1994, after many years as ‘gypsies’, the Association finally found a home for both training and meetings at The Reg Bartley Oval, Rushcutters Bay. In 2009 the Association relocated once again to North Sydney Oval, co-located with the AFL Sydney Umpiring Group. Since moving to North Sydney, the competition of AFL Sydney has seen a restructure with the introduction of the North East AFL (NEAFL) in 2011. This restructure has provided aspiring umpires with the opportunity to officiate teams that include the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney reserve sides and has strengthened the AFL pathway.

The Association has always consisted of a diverse group of members. Many have developed through the ranks of local football leagues; others are expatriates who bring experience from interstate. Together they have developed a prosperous and unique culture that makes umpiring with the NSWAFUA a valuable and rewarding experience.