In a first for WA and what may very well be a first for Australia, the Peel Football Umpires Association (PFUA) recently fielded an all-female umpiring panel to officiate a men’s football match.
It was a truly momentous occasion for Lara Smith, Jamie-Lee Spence, Kylie Podlaha, Zowie Loo, Sarah Kerry, Molly Tingey and Tegan Bartlett who together umpired the Colts match between South Mandurah and Halls Head at Falcon Oval.
Smith who has umpired for the PFUA since 2001 said it was a unifying moment for the group who braided each other’s pig-tales to celebrate the occasion.
“Words cannot describe how amazing it felt getting ready for the game and then walking out onto the ground with the girls and have the crowd applaud you,” Smith said.
“We showed everyone at the game that we can do just as good a job as the boys.”
“It was a surreal moment for us all and one we will never forget.”
Smith joined the PFUA at the age of 14 alongside two other female umpires and over her 17 years at the association this number has jumped to 12.
“It is definitely exciting to see an increase in the number of females wanting to get involved in umpiring,” she said.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be an umpire. You get paid to be fit and tell a bunch of players what to do. I absolutely love it!”
Formed 22 years ago, the PFUA was originally an all-male association but it wasn't long before a girlfriend of one of the umpires and her friend wanted to join to become goal umpires. This marked the beginning of females umpiring in the PFUA.
Since this milestone moment, PFUA Umpire Coordinator Gary Williams said the association has been reaching out to the female market with great success.
“We have seen a steady increase to our female numbers over the past five years in particular and we now have females represented in all three umpiring disciplines,” he said.
“It was a proud moment for myself as the Umpire Coordinator, our three discipline coaches, the fitness coach, and all members of the Association to see this talented group of young women take to the field as a team and umpire the way they all did.”
“As a result of our historic all-female umpiring panel, I'm hoping other females will see that football isn’t an all-male sport and more importantly there is a place for them to either play or umpire.
“Moving forward I would love to see the number of females umpiring football grow not only in our league but also other community football leagues and eventually state and national leagues.”
Photo: Left-Right: Jamie-Lee Spence, Kylie Podlaha, Zowie Loo, Sarah Kerry, Lara Smith, Molly Tingey and Tegan Bartlett