AS West Australian football prepares for the annual Umpire Appreciation Round, one former player is quietly graduating through the ranks as a whistle-blower.
Nathan Mourish was taken as a pre-draft selection at the Fremantle Dockers in 1994.
While he never played at AFL level, Mourish carved out a career in the WAFL, playing a total of 113 games with Perth and Peel between 1993 and 2001.
Fast forward more than two decades and he’s making a name for himself in the umpiring fraternity.
“I’ve been involved in umpiring for several years, doing junior matches and scratch matches for seniors throughout my footy career when playing in the WAFL and in the country,” Mourish said.
“While working for the Clontarf Academy, I also officiated in several Academy games and carnivals over the years. In 2023, I started training at Demons District Umpiring.”
Having played the game at a high level has proved a blessing for Mourish and his ability to make the right call at the right time.
“There’s no question my background does help because I can read the play well and be ahead of the game,” he added.
The former WAFL star is currently umpiring league and reserves in the Central Wheatbelt Football League, Central Midland Coastal Football League and Avon Association.
Mourish is also one of the few Indigenous Umpires in community or country footy.
“I’m not sure how many other Indigenous umpires are out there in and around the Perth area,” Mourish said.
“I know there’s a couple out in the Goldfields, but we’d like to have more. The game need umpires across the board.”
Mourish also described his experiences as a whistle-blower ahead of Umpire Appreciation Round.
“It’s not too bad, but you still get the odd player who’ll question your decision,” he said.
“Most players are good, so it’s important to be strong and make the call as you see it. Be confident and blow the whistle loud and clear.”
WAFL and WAFLW Umpiring Operations Manager at the WAFC, Dean Margetts, believes the progression of Mourish is great for the umpiring fraternity.
“It’s fantastic to have a former player wanting to be part of the game,” Margetts said.
“The fact Nathan has an Indigenous background is terrific and we hope he can be somewhat of a trailblazer for others.”
“Nathan is highly respected in the football community, and I witnessed that in Quairading at the weekend.”
Margetts has explained why the Appreciation Round is an important day on the WA football calendar.
“We don’t expect to be applauded every week, but I think it’s important to take a pulse check once a year and recognise umpires throughout WA who go out and umpire games of footy, sometimes doing up to six games a week,” he said.
“Some will say they get paid, but umpiring is physical and a mentally challenging job.
“So, I ask all footy stake holders this weekend to take a moment to pat the umpire on the back or walk over shake their hand. It will have a lasting effect on that person.”
Umpire Appreciation Round is an opportunity for players, clubs and spectators to recognise the contribution officials make to our game.
Statistics surrounding umpiring numbers in WA are as follows:
- 2600 registered Umpires in WA
- 10% are female umpires – target is 20% by 2025.
- 30% of umpires come from a multicultural background.
- More than 500 new umpires are recruited every year.
- Registrations have increased by more than 10% every year for the past 10 years.
- Current retention rate is 70%
- Abuse means 3 out of 10 umpires are lost to the game.
“We know it’s a slow burn but game by game we’re making progress and that has to be seen as a positive”, Margetts said.
Margetts, a former AFL Umpire with 377 games experience, will help officiate his stepdaughter’s Year 8 game at Upper Swan this Sunday at 9am as part of Umpire Appreciation Round.
He’ll control the game along with a young female umpire from the Swans Junior Umpiring Club.
Courtesy of WAFC – Mark Readings