By: Daniel Cencic
It’s not every day one receives a letter from the AFL’s national umpiring, talent and development manager.
For Eastern Football League umpire Gen Devenish, receiving such a letter last week has begun another chapter in her rise up the umpiring ranks – selection in the inaugural AFL National Female Umpiring Academy, where she will be one of just six participants in the country.
The National Female Umpiring Academy, which will be coached by former VFL umpire Russell Davidson, focuses on fast-tracking development by providing extra coaching support, aimed at complementing the existing development programs provided by the state umpiring department.
Upon reading the congratulatory letter from AFL national umpiring talent and development manager Adam Davis, Devenish was left speechless.
“I was shocked, I had no idea it was even happening (and) I couldn’t believe that I was picked for it,” she said.
Beginning umpiring at the start of 2014, little did Devenish know arriving at her first pre-season session that her newfound hobby would take priority in her life four years on.
“When I first started, it was just another thing to do – to keep me busy and keep me fit,” Devenish said.
“After the first two years it became a huge part of my life, and now, it’s the number one thing in my life.”
Devenish believes the EFL umpire coaching has played a major part in her development.
After an initiation which saw plenty of junior action across the first two seasons of her career, 2016 saw a breakout year for the rising umpire.
Promotion to Saturday footy officiating the under-19s would be joined by AFL Auskick, AFL Victoria junior interleague, under-17 premier and under-17C grand final duties, culminating in the 2016 AFL Victoria AFL Auskick Umpire Recognition Award.
It wouldn’t be long before running out at 2pm on a Saturday to officiate senior footy would become a regular fixture.
“Definitely the coaching has been a huge part,” Devenish said.
“My first year I did under-9s and 10s and in my second year I got pushed up a little bit more and was told that I was better than I thought I was, and pushed to make myself go further.
“In my third year I really worked hard to try and get there and get to Saturday footy.
“It’s a big step.”
Following promotion to the senior ranks in 2017, Devenish was selected in the AFL Victoria Female Umpiring Academy – coached by current AFL umpire Matt Nicholls – where she was presented with a number of opportunities to progress further.
“We did a lot of theory as well as practical work (and) there was a couple of opportunities to umpire different games – I got to umpire on Etihad and a couple of VFL grounds which was really cool,” she said.
Devenish couldn’t be more thankful of the programs in place for EFL umpiring development, and for the coaching she has received.
“Sean Clarke (EFL Junior Field Umpire Coach) especially as he was sort of the one to really push me and convince me to keep going and to go higher,” she said.
“’Scotty’ (Scott Van Noordennen, EFL Head of Umpiring) obviously as well, he’s been really good.”
With a number of EFL umpires making the transition to the AFL in recent months, namely Damien Main, Patrick Dineen and Sam Walsh, Gen Devenish has her sights firmly set on making the big-time.
“That (AFL umpiring) is definitely the goal (and) there’s definitely a lot of pathways, so it’s exciting.”