Former Eden resident Shannon Kirkby is not afraid to blow her own whistle.
In fact, she is expected to as an umpire in the male dominated sport of Australian Rules Football.
Kirkby is one of a growing number of ladies who are not content to watch from the sideline, instead preferring to be in the thick of the action.
The 19-year-old is this year a member of the Female Umpires Academy in Melbourne, where she has relocated to complete an electrical pre-apprenticeship at TAFE.
Academy members meet every two weeks at Carlton’s Bisy Park where they undergo training, while on occasion they will attend camps and referee matches.
The academy is for females who are “fair-dinkum” about forging an umpire's career
“There are 17 girls in the squad and we’re able to stay in the academy for as long as we want, or if an umpire decides at the end of the year they want out, that’s ok too,” Kirkby said.
“The academy is open to all girls who umpire, but not all are selected.
“Local clubs can nominate an umpire, but I was identified because my aunt knew one of the managers, who sent someone up to the Sapphire Coast to have a look at my umpiring.
“I must have done something right because I was selected into the academy.
“The academy is very good. You meet a lot of girls who also love to umpire. We did a camp over the weekend and it was amazing.”
A former Eden Marine High School student, Kirkby will continue to umpire in Melbourne. She will officiate under 19 matches in the amateur league.
Kirkby is working hard towards her dream of one day umpiring an AFL grand final, like academy ambassador Chelsea Roffey who was goal umpire during the 2012 AFL season decider.
“Chelsea is the only female in the AFL league at the moment, but it is hoping to see other female umpires come through the ranks,” Kirkby said.
“I would love to further my umpiring to one day be given an opportunity to umpire at the top level.”
Roffey has been on the AFL umpire’s list since 2004, and although only two years out of school, Kirkby is an eight-year veteran.
Kirkby first started boundary umpiring at the age of 10, when most girls would rather be doing anything else other than umpiring football matches.
She maintained the boundary in the Sapphire Coast Australian Football League (SCAFL) for the next three years, before moving into the goals for two years.
Kirkby moved into the centre square as a 15-year-old, and although daunting at first, she excelled to have umpired the past three SCAFL grand finals.
Kirkby said umpiring was something she did as means to become involved in the sport.
“I was always at the games with my dad (Paul), then my brother (Kane) got into it, so I thought I might as well do something while I was there instead of sitting around watching,” Kirkby said.
“It was a bit nerve-racking because I was so small. They (the players) were fine with me at the start when I was boundary umpiring, but when I started field umpiring the players were a bit “iffy” about it.
“But after a while the players started getting used to me and I was treated no different than anyone else.
“I think there should be more females in the sport and I encourage anyone thinking about giving it go to get out there and try it.”
Kirkby will not end her SCAFL career.
She said on occasion she may umpire when back in town.