St Bernard's teacher to make history

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17 May 2017

By Lauren Wood, Herald Sun
16 May 2017

Eleni Glouftsis was taking charge of a high school classroom when she got the call that she would Eleni Glouftsis in action during the pre-season competitonbe making history this weekend.

Glouftsis received the ultimate 25th birthday present yesterday when umpires boss Hayden Kennedy phoned to tell her she would be making her AFL debut with the whistle when Essendon takes on West Coast on Sunday.

She will be the first female to officiate as a field umpire at the game’s top level.

But, with a class to teach at St Bernard’s College in Essendon, Kennedy’s news had to wait.

‘I was actually at school and got a message from him during class and I thought, "I’m not going to call him now, I’ll wait until lunchtime",’ Glouftsis said.

‘He first of all asked about my day and the weekend and we spoke about school first and he said, "We’re going to give you a call-up this weekend". It was really exciting and I was thrilled to hear the news.

‘I was a little bit distracted (for the rest of the afternoon), but luckily I had two single periods of Year 9 classes so I was able to refocus — just like you do on a football field — and get on with the job.’

Glouftsis has been on the AFL’s rookie umpire list since the start of the 2015 season and said it wasn’t until she entered the AFL system that she realised how big the task was.

‘It’s a really long pathway. It’s been a really long journey and there’s been so many people along the way,’ she said.

‘When you get to be part of an AFL group, you realise what’s required of an AFL umpire and this last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been able to really understand what the requirements are and, in this last year in particular, really build on those different things and earn my spot this weekend.’

Fitness was her biggest final hurdle with Kennedy saying the work the South Australian has done to get herself to her peak is a credit to her.

‘She certainly deserves her position — she’s worked really hard, especially this year,’ he said.

‘Hopefully she’ll go really, really well, which we’re sure she will.’

Glouftsis will treat Sunday just like any other game, and is confident that she can shrug off any added scrutiny associated with her presence.

‘Everyone’s under scrutiny in football in general, particularly in the AFL,’ the 25-year-old said.

What you have to remember is that in every single game I go out to umpire, I do the best I can — regardless of if there’s one camera or 15 cameras. I’m out there to prove that I can do the job and realistically, to perform my role for the game which is to umpire as best as I can.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan lauded Glouftsis’ hard work and said he expected her to be sticking around for the long haul.

‘She’s got there on her merits,’ he said.

‘She’s an excellent umpire who is going to have a long career in our game.’

This article was originally published in the Herald Sun on 16 May 2017.