One of the SFNL’s top whistle-blowers Ilya Fridman has been accepted into the VFL Player to Umpire Program in 2016.
Fridman, who gave up a promising playing career after a litany of serious injuries, is the first Southern League umpire to take part in the program.
Since retiring from football Fridman has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence as an umpire and said he was looking forward to continuing his rapid development in the elite pathway program.
“Yeah, (I'm) absolutely stoked. It’s sort of come out of the blue, but at the same time (it’s a) great opportunity and something I’m really looking forward to,” Fridman said.
“I’m always up for the challenge and always eager to learn and give new things a crack so once this opportunity presented I definitely couldn’t say no.”
The program is still infancy, having been introduced in 2015, and AFL Victoria Umpires Head Coach Cameron Nash said the aim is to turn ex-players into good VFL umpires.
“The program is designed to fast track former high-level footballers into umpiring and get them on our squad in a shorter timeframe,” Nash said.
“(The participants) sit in on the VFL coaching session every Tuesday night so they’re getting coaching on a regular basis.
“And training with an elite group like the VFL umpires is going to fast-track their development in terms of knowing what’s expected at this level.”
Nash also said that last year’s inaugural participants, Paul Rebeschini (MPNFL) and Cameron Dore (VAFA) were on track with their development and likely to earn a spot on the VFL Development squad.
“Both of those guys are currently trialling for a spot our list this year… they are both pretty good chances of getting on,” Nash said.
“We’ll have a look at them (umpiring) in their local group a couple of times during the year with the possibility of maybe doing some TAC (Cup) games later in the season.”
As part of the program, Fridman will train with the VFL umpiring group every Tuesday night and return to the SFNL umpiring group on Thursday nights.
Not only will the teachings of the VFL coaches vastly improve Fridman’s own match-day performances, but he said he hopes to pass on these words of wisdom to junior members of the SFNL umpiring group to aid their development.
SFNL umpires’ supremo Peter Marshall described Fridman as a very “coachable” umpire, and said that he possessed all the attributes required to officiate at a higher level.
“His fitness is outstanding, he presents really well, he has a great feel for the game and… he’s the ideal candidate that could progress through the ranks pretty quickly,” Marshall said.
Fridman told SFNL Media last year that he harboured no burning desire to further his umpiring to reach a higher level. However, his introduction into this program has changed his mindset and he now hopes to take full advantage of this great opportunity and see how far he can go.
“My goals and ambitions were a bit different back then, it was more for the rehab and trying to get that fitness back up whilst staying involved (in footy),” Fridman said.
“I guess now when you get presented with an opportunity like this… you have to re-evaluate where you’re heading with your umpiring and it’s something you’ve gotta grab with both hands and give it a good crack.
“If the opportunity presents itself (to progress to a higher level) then you’ve got to put your foot in the door.”
If you are interested in umpiring in the SFNL in 2016 CLICK HERE.