Phyland hits 1500 game milestone

Di Phyland (Jamie Morey Photography)

Tara Murray

It took Di Phyland just one game to fall in love with umpiring football.

Phyland, who started umpiring in 1991, will run out for game 1500 on the weekend marking a massive milestone.

For Phyland the achievement takes her where not many umpires have been, let alone female umpires.

“It might have crept up a little bit,” she said before the milestone match.

“It’s uncharted territory. A bunch of blokes have, but female umpires don’t tend to stick around.

“To get big numbers [as a female] in the EDFL [Essendon District Football League] is uncharted territory.”

Phyland started umpiring after her football coach suggested she be the boundary rider for a men’s game, after not being able to attend her own training due to work.

She decided to have the run and that was the start of a long umpiring career.

“The boys needed a boundary umpire,” she said.

“I had so much fun that I offered to do it the next week and that was it. That was 1991 and I’m now in my 32nd year.”

Phyland started on the boundary before moving into field umpiring. For a while she did both, before focusing on field umpiring only in 1998.

She also had a stint in the goals.

After playing 50 games, including a stint at Sunshine YCW [now known as VU Spurs], she retired to focus on umpiring.

“I liked running the boundary, but I wasn’t a runner,” she said. “I found field umpiring easier.

“I played til the end of 1995 and the reason I stopped was I wanted to umpire women’s football and I’m ecstatic how it’s going.”

Phyland has umpired across a number of different leagues. She did many games in the Victorian Women’s Football League before it folded, while she’s umpired in the Western Region Football League, masters and youth girls competitions, while the EDFL has been home for a number of years.

Not counted in her 1500 in the games she has also umpired in America.

Phyland said it’s a lot of the memorable moments from her career, including umpiring on the MCG a number of times.

She said it’s the small things that she remembers the most.

“Seeing Debbie Lee skittled on the MCG was pretty impressive,” she said.

“There’s a lot of memorial occasions on different levels. Juniors finals one year, the boys jumped in the mud after they won.

“One of the boys looked at the goal umpire and then gave him a massive huge. It’s the little things you remember.”

While much has changed since Phyland started umpiring the biggest change has been the involvement of females in the sport.

She said she was thrilled with the development of women’s football and the greater involvement of female umpires. Phyland said she would love to see that grow even more, saying football is one of the best sports to be involved in.

“When I started there were three females [umpiring] in the EDFL and then it was up to five, before that dropped off for a couple of years and I only female in league.

“We’re starting to build momentum. There are numbers of female umpires in the field, growing numbers in goal and boundary as well.”

The 58-year-old said she had no intention of hanging up the whistle any time soon. This season she is averaging umpiring five games a weekend.

“It’s five games of fun,” she said.

“The body has been good apart from a couple of little niggles. In a couple of years, I’ll start looking at it year by year, but I have no intention of stopping.”