Annette Hadley is proving girls can kick it with the boys, having recently become the only female umpire in the North West AFL competition, and the Moree Suns’ first official umpire.
The achievement is a significant one for the Moree woman, who, up until this year, had never played a game of AFL, let alone participated in any type of team sport in her life.
“I only got into AFL this year,” Hadley said.
“My husband and I came to watch the Suns play home games since the club started again in 2015.
“One of the executive members asked if I wanted to join the women’s team and I said, ‘sure, why not’.
“The next week we played a game.”
Despite only being very new to AFL, Hadley said it didn’t take her long to fall in love with the sport, particularly the comraderie within the Suns’ club.
“It’s really good, the women’s team is really coming together quite well,” she said.
“It’s a really enthusiastic group of girls.
“I just really enjoy the collegiality; the Suns teams all support each other a lot. There’s a lot of good vibes.”
After joining the women’s team, Hadley offered to volunteer within the club, and was asked if she could umpire.
“I looked into the requirements for becoming an official umpire and decided it was something I’d like to give a go,” she said.
Hadley then completed an online training course and a practical assessment and is now fully qualified, able to umpire seniors, juniors and women’s games.
She umpired her very first game between the New England Nomads and Tamworth Swans seniors on July 22, an experience she said was “interesting”.
“There’s so much to think about when you actually do it; you have to concentrate on five different things at once,” Hadley said.
There’s so much to think about when you actually do it; you have to concentrate on five different things at onceAnnette Hadley
“It’s a completely different feeling.
“The players were all very respectful though, especially given I’m a girl.”
Being the only female umpire in the Tamworth AFL competition is something Hadley is very proud of.
“I’m quite proud that I’ve taken on this role and can match it with the boys,” she said.
“I think it’s quite important because it shows that things don’t have to just be for men or women – sport is for everybody, you can play whatever you want.”
This weekend is the last round of the home and away season, and will see the Suns travelling to Gunnedah to take on the Bulldogs.