Sport AFL The woman who is about to make AFL history

The woman who is about to make AFL history

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In 2014, Eleni Glouftsis packed up her belongings and left Adelaide with one thing on her mind: to make history.

The school teacher wanted to become the AFL’s first female umpire.

They love footy in Adelaide just as much as they do in Melbourne, but for a budding official, a city with nine of the competition’s 18 teams – and the league headquarters – is the place to be.

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And when the AFL came knocking, with a three-year scholarship to train with the umpires, and those of the VFL, Glouftsis – who began umpiring in 2008 and had progressed to the top ranks of South Australian football by 2013 – simply couldn’t turn them down.

Glouftsis made a strong impression during Essendon's intraclub match. Photo: Getty
Glouftsis made a strong impression during Essendon’s intra-club match. Photo: Getty

“The opportunity was just fantastic … you can’t really say no to that,” Glouftsis said in September 2014.

Fast forward less than 18 months and Glouftsis is preparing to take charge in Carlton’s NAB Challenge clash against Essendon at Ikon Park on Sunday.

Her performance will be the centre of much attention but she has dealt with similar pressures before.

The 23-year-old became the first female field umpire in the SANFL’s history in 2013.

Her 15 matches in that competition, in 2013 and 2014, were the basis for her AFL scholarship offer.

And umpires boss Hayden Kennedy hailed Glouftsis’ appointment on Sunday as “fantastic” for the competition.

“We’re really happy to say that Eleni will now make her NAB Cup debut this week,” he said.

“It’s a great step forward in her development but also for umpiring development as a community. It’s fantastic.”

Glouftsis took the reins in Essendon’s intra-club match last week and impressed.

And while she is not on the senior list of officials for the 2016 season, she is one of 12 rookie umpires – meaning she could be required to take charge of a home-and-away match.

“Anything can happen,” Kennedy added.

“Eleni is now a rookie umpire on the AFL list so she can sit on the bench.

“If the opportunity comes and someone is injured, then yes, Eleni will be out there umpiring.”

Not that one chance is all Glouftsis is after.

There are 10 women's exhibition games slated for 2016. Photo: Getty
There are 10 women’s exhibition games slated for 2016. Photo: Getty

She is determined to have a long career as an AFL field umpire.

“Obviously the aim is not just to umpire one or two games,” she said previously.

“The aim is to get to that level and hopefully perform at that level for a number of years.”

Her appointment comes four years after goal umpire Chelsea Roffey was the first woman to officiate at an AFL grand final.

Roffey is one of three female goal umpires in the AFL’s ranks, with Rose O’Dea and Sally Boud joining her.

Women’s league continues to take shape

On Friday, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan revealed more details of the inaugural women’s league.

It is likely to have eight teams when it begins in February or March next year.

Of the eight, four seem set to be from Victoria, with others from Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

In 2016, 10 exhibition games are scheduled.

The matches will start and finish with clashes between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

Teams representing Fremantle, West Coast, Sydney and GWS will also take part.

“There’s a revolution going on,” McLachlan said on Friday.


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