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Local umpires blow the whistle on the big time

Date

Steven Smith

AFL umpires to officiate Giants and Saints match on Saturday are (front) Scott Gordon, (back, L-R) Dale Poren , Luke Roberts, Chris Simms and James Savage.

AFL umpires to officiate Giants and Saints match on Saturday are (front) Scott Gordon, (back, L-R) Dale Poren , Luke Roberts, Chris Simms and James Savage. Photo: Melissa Adams

They're usually the subject of jeers, but Canberra footy fans have good reason to cheer for the umpires in Saturday's AFL match at Manuka Oval.

A record six umpires from the Canberra region will officiate in the match between the GWS Giants and St Kilda on Saturday.

While the focus of the Giants in Canberra has been on developing players and supporters, their introduction has also boosted umpiring stocks.

NEAFL Eastern Conference umpire coach Jock Hillgrove said since the introduction of the Giants into the AFL last year umpiring numbers had increased and that half of their membership were under 21.

''If we can keep this up it means more umpires will join and we can provide them the right pathway to the AFL,'' Hillgrove said.

Newly appointed umpires Dale Puren and Scott Gordon will officiate on Saturday along with goal umpire James Savage and boundary riders Luke Roberts and Chris Simms. They will be joined by Canberra-born veteran whistleblower ''Razor'' Ray Chamberlain.

Puren will make his AFL debut 11 years after taking up umpiring.

''I played for Marist as a junior, but I was no good at that. Then one day I got a flyer in the mailbox about umpiring,'' Puren said.

''To have the opportunity to debut at Manuka Oval is great but having umpired what feels like hundreds of games at Manuka it should make it easier than otherwise.''

Gordon made his debut as a boundary umpire last weekend, a late replacement in the match between the Sydney Swans and Gold Coast Suns at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The 20-year-old university student began umpiring four years ago.

Those interested in taking up umpiring should contact Jock Hillgrove on (02) 6228 0366.

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