Ladies who Leap catches up with umpire Libby Toovey

It seems that rugby league is not the only sport where women are making a name for themselves officiating.

Earlier this year, an exclusively female set of umpires officiated at a TAC Cup match this year.  This follows on from the news that three women, have cracked umpiring at the elite AFL level being Eleni Gloufits, Lucinda Lopes and Libby Toovey.   

Eleni and Lucinda spent the pre-season training with the AFL’s umpire group while Libby was selected to umpire for a while week during the AFL Youth Girls national championships.

Earlier this year, Erin Riley, Danielle Slimnicanovski and myself caught up with Libby to talk about her journey through the AFL umpiring ranks.

1. Libby on her earliest memory of AFL.

“Probably going to the footy with my dad to watch Geelong play.  I would have been about 7 years old and just loving the game and loving the atmosphere and everything that was going on like the cheering and people calling out ‘BALL’.  I probably would have been about 7 and then just fell in love with it.”

2. Libby on what prompted her to get involved with umpiring.

“I always wanted to play footy but when I was a teenager and about 12 or 13 years old there weren’t many female teams.  There were older teams but I didn’t want to get killed straight away playing for a women’s team so I thought umpiring was the way to go and so I got into field umpiring through that.”

3. Libby and how she feels about the launch of the inaugural women’s competition in 2017.

“It’s really exciting.  It has been a long time coming and a lot of people don’t realise that, that the AFL didn’t just decide for it to happen next year, there have been plans 10-15 years before now and women working hard to make it happen.  It is really exciting, not only for football itself but also for 5 year olds are starting Auskick.  Hopefully when they are 18 or 19 they can play for an AFL team rather than just stopping at the Victorian level with nowhere else to go and can play across Australia.”

4. Libby on some of the challenges of umpiring.

“It’s pretty challenging.  To be an umpire you have to be pretty fit so I do a lot of training during the week and a lot of running around on game day.  I guess trying to maintain concentration during the game and not make a mistake is challenging.  Sometimes you do make one or two mistakes and we are humans just like players.  Sometimes you can lapse in concentration but you get it back straight away once you realise ‘I should have got that’.  What is also challenging is when a player thinks you have missed one but you don’t think you have and they argue back, but at the level I am at that doesn’t happen too often.  Sometimes they want to have a go and argue back at me but unfortunately that was a lot worse at a local level.  Being at a state level makes it a bit easier.”

5. Libby on whether she gets more players answering back because she is a woman.

“No, I don’t think so.  Most of the players are ok once they realise that you know what you are doing and adapt pretty quickly.  I think that’s a good thing.  I don’t think being a girl makes it easier for them to talk back, in fact I think it is the opposite – they don’t want to be too rude to you if they are gentleman like characters.  It is pretty much the same for any umpire, no one likes an umpire and if they are going to have a go at you, they will have a go at you no matter what.”

6. Libby on her favourite AFL player to watch on the field.

“That’s a tricky question.  Going for Geelong I like Joel Selwood.  I think he is hard at it all the time and has a never say die attitude.  But also the likes of Adam Goodes when he was around – he was an incredible player, always trying his best and not only on the field but also away from footy he was a really good role model for everyone in Australia.”

7. Libby on whether she finds being objective difficult.

“No, not at all.  I don’t really follow any of the teams I umpire and if I were ever to umpire AFL in the future, I wouldn’t be supporting Geelong.  The teams that I umpire, I don’t really know much about.  To me they are just people wanting to have a crack at the footy and we just let them do that.”

8. Libby on her goals for the rest of the year.

“For the rest of the year I just want to keep umpiring the best that I can and trying to get as close to the AFL as I can.  But the main goal is just to be consistent and to do the same thing week in and week out, not to make too many mistakes and to have fun while I’m umpiring.”


Ladies who Leap xxx