Chelsea Roffey, AFL Umpire

Chelsea Roffey, AFL UmpireChelsea was born in South Australia, raised in Brisbane and now resides in Melbourne. Her love of footy started when she was young, accompanying her parents on their weekend sporting ventures.

In her final year of high school in 1998, Roffey decided she’d had enough of her music classes, which opened up room in her schedule. When she heard the football team needed volunteers, she started goal umpiring for her school. 

The year after she finished high school, she started umpiring in the AFL Queensland, progressing to state level matches soon after. 

In June 2004 she was elevated to the AFL and in August that year she officiated her first game between Brisbane and West Coast. 

To date she has completed 46 AFL matches and many Wizard and NAB Cup games as well.

In the male-dominated world of football, Roffey says there will always be "doubting Thomases" who wonder if she is up to the job.

"But it's more of a self-imposed feeling. I've had to do press conferences and interviews, things a male goal umpire entering the game wouldn't have to do. I just wanted to prove myself,” she says.

But what about players or other umpires?

"At this level, the players don't care, as long as you're doing your job," she says. "The other umpires are very professional; they just want to know that I'm working as hard as them."

And work hard they certainly do. Goal umpires in the AFL have to do a 4km time trial, a beep test and agility tests in the pre-season. They also get skin folds taken four times a year. In a typical week, Roffey trains twice a week. There is a video session on Tuesdays and on Wednesdays, an intense workout with a fitness coach and a skills session.

There are no full-time umpires in the AFL, so most have other jobs to support themselves.

"There are barristers and accountants among the umpiring ranks," Roffey says. "Umpiring is a huge commitment. It's directed my whole life choices - I've got to live in a capital city of Australia and I haven't lived overseas yet. But at the same time I sometimes stop and think to myself this job of umpiring is really cool!"

Her passion for the game is infectious. One of her highlights includes "umpiring a game where Jonathon Brown and Matthew Pavlich were vying for the Coleman Medal," she says.

"I remember watching their tallies during the game on the big screen. Brown would kick a goal and his score would go up and the crowd would go wild. Then Pavlich would get a goal and his would go up and the crowd would go wild. I love riding the rollercoaster with the fans, it's what footy is about."

Roffey is not a recruitment officer, nor is she a cheerleader for signing up girls into umpiring positions; her message is plain and simple.

"Females have what it takes to umpire football. It's not a matter of should they or shouldn't they, it's just that they can."