ZACHERY Packard is one step closer to his dream of umpiring in the AFL, following his selection into the SANFL Umpiring Academy.
After his selection in December 2016, Packard has been training with the Academy for the last month, rubbing shoulders with SANFL and AFL umpires.
From a field of 40 to 50, the 19-year-old was one of about 20 budding umpires to be selected to join the existing Academy umpires from the previous season.
Packard, who also played football until this year, said he started umpiring when he was 13 to get more involved in the game and gain a bit of pocket money, but developed a passion for it over the years.
“I was pretty excited to get picked. I was really hoping I would make the Academy just because it’s the start of the pathway to get to AFL footy,” he said.
I was really hoping I would make the Academy just because it’s the start of the pathway to get to AFL footy.
“This is the bottom of where I need to start so I can work my way through the SANFL levels and eventually hopefully make it to the AFL.”
The Academy umpires will officiate SANFL under 16s and 18s matches in 2017, while training every Monday and Wednesday at AAMI Stadium.
Packard said it has been surreal to train alongside the umpires that he usually watches on television.
“Training has been pretty tough. There’s a lot of explosive, acceleration drills we're learning at the moment,” Packard said.
“We've also done a fair bit of positioning stuff and I've certainly learned a lot already.”
After taking a gap year to travel the US, Packard has moved to Adelaide to juggle his umpiring with tertiary studies, beginning a Bachelor of Business (Sports and Recreation Management) at the University of South Australia.
With a record 18 umpires in the AFL, Packard said South Australian umpires have been receiving a lot more opportunities.