In a groundbreaking season for women’s AFL, teenager Shauna Flynn will become the first South Coast umpire to reach AFL level when she officiates in Greater Western Sydney’s AFL Women’s clash on Saturday.
The 16-year-old will be a boundary umpire for the Giants home game against Fremantle at Blacktown International Sports Park, just 12 months after making her debut in a lower grade local AFL game.
“I’m excited. It seems a bit surreal,” Shauna said.
“To think after 12 months (officiating) I’m doing an AFL Women’s game is hard to believe. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.”
Despite a rapid rise to AFL officiating, Shauna’s background isn’t in AFL but athletics.
An elite runner she has competed in cross country at the Australian junior nationals.
Her natural speed and endurance is perfectly suited to AFL boundary umpiring, with her biggest challenge being able to master throwing the ball in to restart play after the ball goes over the boundary line.
“I had to practice hard to improve. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve put a lot of hard work in and had lots of help. I think this role suits my abilities.”
The St Mary Star of the Sea Year 11 student’s speed and endurance is suited to the demands of AFL officiating, with boundary umpires often required to run more than 10km around an AFL ground in a match.
Shauna was introduced to AFL after watching a friend officiate from the boundary in Melbourne a couple of years ago. And Shauna’s younger brother Ciaran is part of the Swans Academy, giving her an insight into the rigours of a player.
But Shauna’s rise to the elite in AFL officiating has been especially rapid considering she only became involved in the sport barely 12 months ago.
She debuted as a 15-year-old goal umpire in AFL Seniors Division 2 last season and progressed to being a boundary umpire in the thrilling Wollongong Lions versus Wollongong Bulldogs Division 1 grand final last September.
Umpire Development Co-ordinator ACT/South Coast, Cameron Black said it was ‘’phenomenal’’ Shauna had reached the elite AFL Women level so quickly.
“Shauna is incredibly talented. She has an elite running background and has worked really hard on improving her throw in skills required as a boundary umpire,” Black said.
“Her rapid progression shows the pathway available for young umpires with the introduction of the AFL Women national competition.”
And while Shauna is a trailblazer there are plenty of other young umpires aspiring to making it to AFL level.
Black said of the 110 registered umpires in AFL/South Coast competition the average age is just 17-18 with 70 per cent aged from 14-21.
“It’s a very young group of umpires but they are really talented and they work very hard on their skills.
“What Shauna has done shows no matter what age you are you can make it to the elite level.”