The AFL Grand Final is by far the biggest, most exciting event on the Australian Football Rules calendar. It’s a day where the country’s footy family comes together to witness the very best players of the competition battle it out for the Premiership Cup.
Thirteen-year-old West Perth junior umpire Jamie Wedgwood got the chance to experience the major clash in the flesh after he was awarded the 2016 WA Rookie Umpire of the Year award for his outstanding efforts and commitment to the sport.
“I never thought I would ever be involved in something so cool,” Wedgwood said.
“I was amazed to have been given such a unique and special opportunity – me at the Grand Final, me walking in the Grand Final Parade with AFL players! It was totally unbelievable.”
After playing junior footy at the Kingsway Rockets for the last six years, Wedgwood was keen for a change in direction. Still wanting to be involved in football he took up umpiring and this year successfully completed his first season as a junior umpire.
“I still love the game of footy and wanted to continue being involved in it but I was looking for something a little different,” Wedgwood said.
“My best mate Harry told me was trying out umpiring, so I gave it a go this year and haven’t looked back.
“I was totally shocked to receive this award but I’m also so proud of my achievement having just completed my first year of umpiring.
“I worked hard week in and week out, learning the rules and expectations required to have control of a game under the guidance of my coaches and mentors.
“I umpired a Year Six game and made my way up the ranks to umpire a Year Eight game, which is even better because it’s my actual age group,” Wedgwood added.
AFL Umpire Dean Margetts presented Wedgwood with the award along with his Grand Final Parade Pass and better yet, the opportunity to umpire the grid-game on the hallowed turf of MCG at half-time of the Grand Final clash between the Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs on Saturday October 1.
It seemed Wedgwood’s mum Trish was just as excited as her son about the opportunity he had been given, or maybe a tad more.
“I was completely speechless, and at the same time so excited and proud of him,” she said.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime that we were so chuffed to have our son be included in.”
Saturday October 1 is a day that will stick with Wedgwood and his parents for a very long time.
“That morning I was so excited, I felt like I was going to burst,” he said.
Wedgwood and the other umpires got the chance to watch the pre-game concert and the first quarter of the match.
“Watching the umpires on the field allowed me to dream that one day this could be me umpiring an AFL Grand Final. It has inspired me to continue learning and to keep following my dream."
The anticipation got to an all-time high when Wedgwood buddied with his Little League team in the race and waited for the half-time siren to sound.
“We were all so excited and pumped to get out there,” he said.
“My most important job was to make sure everyone had fun.”
Wedgwood’s mum Trish couldn’t be more proud of how far her son has developed both physically and mentally in his first year of umpiring.
“He has developed physical skills, he’s made new friendships, learnt how to be a team member, learnt how to play fair and his confidence has just blossomed,” she said.
“Vernon (dad) and I think umpiring this year has allowed Jamie to grow in a sport that is something of his own, his determination to learn the rules and expectations of the game is a credit only to himself as he has done all the hard work.
“We are very proud of him and what he has achieved in his first year of umpiring. He has the world at his feet and he has some great mentors to aspire to and follow his dreams.”