AFL Round 6 – North Melbourne v Port Power: When Stu met Chelsea

I can appreciate an umpire along with the best of them.

So, imagine my glee at having the opportunity to perform the fairly unremarkable role of an AFL Media gopher during the North v Port match in Hobart and actually getting to visit the umpires’ rooms pre-match to collect the final teams.

Yep, nothing like striding into a room full of diminutive strangers in various states of undress, announcing myself as being ‘from AFL Media’ and then being asked to produce my match day pass to prove it.

Those officials… sticklers for the rules.

You’d hardly believe my surprise, though, at recognising one of the officials at first glance. And I’m not talking about Ray Chamberlain, either.

Any self-respecting footy fan would recognise the ‘Razor’. Not only is he the most assured field umpire since Tom Wills, he is an expert at securing time on camera.

(Razor makes the tough decisions for a reason; tough decisions are often controversial, controversy gets noticed and getting noticed is good for your profile. Make no mistake, Razor wasn’t just looking after David Hale in Adelaide – he was looking after Razor, too.)

Nope, this umpire was instantly recognisable for a very different reason.

Neatly presented in a black tracksuit, bright-eyed and smiling. At once demure and attractive.

A vision of grace in a room full of gargoyles.

The diva of decision making.

The Aphrodite of adjudication.

Yep – I was face to face with Chelsea Roffey and if not immediately ‘taken’, my fate was sealed soon after.

Waiting quietly in the corner for Port Adelaide officials to find their way across Blundstone Arena with the team sheet, my eyes wandered around the room.

On one wall a small whiteboard took pride of place, black scrawl covering its top half.

It looked unremarkable at first glance, but on closer inspection proved quite interesting.

The scrawl was, in fact, a few dozen signatures – those of the international cricket umpires to have stood in the centre of Bellerive Oval down the years.

I couldn’t find Steve Randell’s mark – and I couldn’t be sure whether that was through coincidence or design…

Nor could I be sure whether Chelsea Roffey was somehow channelling my cricket daydreams at that very moment, but when I looked away from the whiteboard and caught a glimpse of her bowling a tennis ball along the corridor, I felt like she probably was.

Distracted for a second by the news that North would go in unchanged and that Taylor Hine would start in the green vest, it was only at the last moment I noticed a tennis ball rolling in my direction.

Deftly, I trapped it between my feet. I reached down, picked it up in one fluid motion and lifted my eyes to find its owner.

Lo and behold, Chelsea Roffey was a few metres along the passage, looking in my direction and with the kind of smile that could melt the fresh snow atop Mt Wellington, urging me to return the ball. Her ball.

Suddenly it was 1994 and I was returning the ball across an ashphalt four-square court to the pretty girl from two years above me at school… left handed and poorly.

There’d been no reason to use my wrong hand and the decision to do so could only be put down to the kind of panic that can strike when confronted by an attractive woman and an otherwise simple task.

I could swear that as the fluffy yellow air conveyance looped in her direction, Chelsea Roffey deftly stepped to her left, spread her stance, bent slightly at the knee, crossed her hands behind her back, kept her chin out and her eyes firmly on the ball and watched keenly as it bounced off a framed photo hanging on the wall.

I expected instinct to fool her into extending her right arm to mock my disastrously wayward shot. It had clearly sailed wide of the posts and out on the full.

Instead, she shot me a quick smile of thanks.

I was most pleased that the photo hadn’t been dislodged. But it was a lovely smile.

I think I began to blush as she turned on her heel, bounced the ball a few times before breaking into a spontaneous jog on the spot, probably beginning to consider how she’d best see off the infamous cold of a May day in Hobart.

Because the thing was, it promised to be a rather cold afternoon for goal umpires.

Of the 26 majors kicked by both sides, just six were booted to the southern end of the ground.

Luckily for Chelsea Roffey, that was the end bathed in sunshine throughout the afternoon.

It would have been a Mawson-esque experience standing around waiting for something to happen if there had been a similar goal drought at the Church St end.

As it was, though, the sausage rolls piled up to the north of the soon-to-be-renovated boutique stadium on the banks of the Derwent River.

The Roos kicked seven in the first term and three in the third. Port kicked five apiece in the second and fourth.

And had the visitors done better in the opening stanza they might just have been close enough to pinch it at the end.

Despite the best efforts of Travis Boak, Dom Cassisi and Chad Wingard it wasn’t to be for the Power.

Thanks to Ryan Bastinac and Daniel Wells – and the shut-down work of Sam Gibson, Nathan Grima and Scott Thompson – the Roos chalked up another one in the ‘W’ column.

But while Chelsea Roffey stole my heart, it was her three mates in the middle that really stole the show.

The whistle blew for no fewer than 53 free kicks and, astonishingly, 38 of those went the Roos’ way.

Complaints from stand-in Power coach Alan Richardson post-match? Nuh-uh. Boak? Not one.

Now that’s some serious dedication to the spirit of umpire appreciation.


NORTH MELBOURNE     7.2   9.4   12.7  14.9  (93)
PORT ADELAIDE             1.5   6.7   7.9   12.11  (83)

North Melbourne: Petrie 3, Black 2, Thomas 2, Adams 2, Ziebell, Wells, Wright, Goldstein, Daw
Port Adelaide: Schulz 3, Wingard 2, Neade, Renouf, Broadbent, Gray, Monfries, Wines, Lobbe

North Melbourne: Bastinac, Wells, Cunnington, Ziebell, Swallow, Gibson
Port Adelaide: Boak, Cornes, Cassisi, Ebert, Wines, Wingard

Reports: Chad Wingard reported for high contact on Ben Cunnington during the final term.

Umpires: Stewart, Meredith, McInerney

Official crowd: 10,265 at Blundstone Arena

Our votes: 3 Bastinac (North), 2 Boak (Port), 1 Ziebell (North)

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