WHEN he retired from his playing days, the last thing Tom Nicholson thought he would be doing is umpiring football.
He describes himself as “a shocker” toward umpires on the football field in his career with North Bendigo.
So when he was finally talked into heading along to training with the Bendigo Umpires Association early last year, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I did a lot of Bendigo reserves games and the guys my age are all drinking cans on the hill and every time I went somewhere it was just ‘what are you doing?’ They were just laughing at me.
“And I said ‘nah, seriously, I’m really enjoying it’ and I have done since.”
Nicholson took out the best first year umpire award last year for the BUA, earning plaudits for his feel for the game and enthusiasm.
He is the type of person the BUA is hoping to encourage to make the switch to umpiring as season 2018 draws ever closer.
Considering it took longtime senior umpire John Norton to turn up to his house and almost drag him out the door to get to training, the process has been a surprising one.
“I kept saying I was going to do it and coming up with excuses, and one night John rang me and told me to come to training,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure, and John said ‘I’m out the front, we’re leaving in five minutes’ and since then I haven’t looked back.”
The outside view of umpires is another thing that initially held Nicholson back, but he said the reality couldn’t me more different.
“I think playing does help, you get that different feel for the game rather than trying to umpire out of the book,” he said.
“The perception is that they’re over there and they’re so different. I came down here and it was the complete opposite.
“I’ve had an absolute ball in the 12 months that I’ve been around and I’m looking forward to this year.”
The BUA is welcoming new members to join the reigning AFL Victoria Umpiring Group of the Year in 2018.
BUA chairman Craig Findlay said it is a great way to keep fit, have fun and earn some money while you’re playing a vital role in local football.
The BUA train Tuesdays and Thursdays at Weeroona Oval and anyone interested can contact Sharon McColl on 5434 2400.