General Footy Writing: The whole of Canberra was there to see my niece create footy history

By Anne Cahill Lambert

Put last Saturday in your brain as the day that changed the face of the football world.

My niece, Bec Goddard, became the first female central umpire to umpire a senior Australian football match.  How fitting that it was in the nation’s capital?

The match was at Ainslie Oval, a ground that I have attended on many occasions since the 1960s.  I saw Jezza take fabulous marks there and then my brother-in-law (Bec’s father) ran the wings there.  This was completely different, though, and not only because you’re not allowed to take your car in any more.

I paid my $5 to get in whereas previously it was free.  The nice men at the gate told me that both grandmothers were already here – one was in the stand and one was over the far side with Bec’s cousin, Rachel, who was the first female in the country to goal umpire a division-one grand final.

I walked over to the stand on the right flank where a number of my brother-in-law’s friends were sitting.  One of them came to give me a kiss and I suggested she might keep her distance lest she be infected with swine flu.  This cleared out the entire stand, except for Bec’s other grandmother. (As an aside and for any public health expert, the swine-flu test results have since arrived and I only have bronchitis.)

Other Canberrans arrived and sat in the stand with me, oblivious to the cesspool of infection that may have been lurking there.  Then the umpire official climbed the stairs and sat behind me with his clipboard and pen.  Bec walked out and held the ball aloft.  There was a huge cheer from our stand.  It seemed half of Canberra was in the stand to support Bec.  We all laughed at one another and I commented that I’d never sat in an umpire’s stand before; to which the umpire official snarled “that’s because we’ve never had one before”.  Well, I said, perhaps you should have more women as officials.  He suggested to Bec’s friends that they might join the umpire panel.  I think they said something like their sock drawers needed sorting.

Every time Bec threw the ball up straight into the air (all the time) or ran backwards or did anything, we all cheered and clapped.  At quarter-time and three-quarter time we ran out to give her some feedback, take a photo and have a chat.  The umpire officials thought this hilarious as no one ever does that.  I took a friend along who has never been to an Australian football match and she said if Bec continues to umpire we’ll have to take oranges and drinks out to her because the players get this sort of attention.

At half-time I asked the umpire official for his official view of Bec’s performance and whether she’d be allowed out for the second half.  He said she’d be allowed out for the second half and also next week.  What a relief.

We didn’t hear one person bag the umpires or call them maggots.  I doubt that such a person would have been in our stand, though.  Her fifty-metre penalties were spot on, particularly the one that was awarded against the bloke who said he didn’t care whether her effing mother was in the crowd; she shouldn’t be awarding free kicks against him.

The game went according to plan.  A good game is where the game is the winner and the umpires are unnoticed.  This was so, except for our stand where we had no idea who was playing or what the score was.

Ainslie Oval really has changed.  There was a man there with a real coffee machine, which is a welcome addition.  Latté and good umpiring:  it doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh, and Belconnen 27.7 (169) trounced Ainslie 14.10 (94).  And the sky didn’t fall in.

About Anne Cahill Lambert

One of the first females to be admitted to membership of the G. Thank you Mr Cain. Nicknamed The Hyphen by Alamanac Editor, despite the fact I don’t have one.

Comments

  1. Well done on your neice being the first in the ACT but not Aust. Try Sharon Alger in the VAFA comp being the first female field umpire in that league to umpire senior footy in 1987. Then myself in 1996. Again well done to Bec

  2. pauldaffey says:

    Hi Leah,

    Did your entire family and many friends watch your first game as well? Are you still umpiring?

    I’m intrigued to know whether you cop as much stick from the players as a male umpire does, or whether the players hold back.

  3. Anne Cahill Lambert says:

    Well, Leah. We need to log these events don’t we as no one seemed to remember them. I went again today. The goal umpire today was also a woman – a 16 year old young lady who has been umpiring since the age of 14. I can tell both you and Paul that there was much abuse hurled at all the umpires, including my niece who again put in a reasonable effort (no bias there)!

    The result was a bath: Swans (coached by Brett Allison who used to play for Belconnen and then North Melbourne, who is a Canberra boy) scored 26 21 177, to Queanbeyan Tigers who had the home ground advantage on a cold day with a poor score of 7 15 57.

    Is there a way of us recording such significant moments?

    Regards,

  4. pauldaffey says:

    Anne,

    I’m not sure how you’d go about it. It’s not like there’s a central bureau for such items of information. The AFL Umpires Association, based in Melbourne, has a couple of members who are considered umpire historians. They’ve become the unofficial gatekeepers of umpire history.

  5. pauldaffey says:

    PS. Good to hear that Bec again performed well, and that she had plenty of support on the sidelines.

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