Carpe Diem (Seize The Day)
- Age 20
- Started 2007
- Highest Level VFL Development Squad
- Games Approx. 40 Division 1, 6 TAC Cup
- Grand Finals 2
- Occupation Student
- Proudest Achievement 2013 Division 1 2nd Semi Final
Our latest field umpire to taste state football tells us how he got there.
Regardless of how far you go as an umpire, the beginning of a career is rarely romantic. At the behest of his little brother's Auskick coordinator after he had helped out adequately with the whistle, a 12 year old Stefan Bjelosevic debuted for the WRFL Umpires as a Division 2 Reserves boundary umpire at a cold and wet Braybrook. Eight years on, Stefan took control of his first TAC Cup match at Simonds Stadium in Geelong (pictured above), a far cry from his first encounter with a suburban mudheap that had him briefly questioning his new occupation.
While he cracked senior football in that first season, the transition to an elite field umpire was not a quick or easy one; Stefan spent three years learning the craft from the boundary before taking the leap in 2010. His potential was immediately recognised and he was given the opportunity to officiate in the School Sport Australian Football Championships in Perth, an experience he would repeat in the following seasons at Canberra and Adelaide, culminating in the 2012 Grand Final between Vic Metro and Vic Country. Stefan remembers the carnivals fondly: "I was exposed to some great footy, and a lot of the boys on the Vic Metro/Country squads are now in the VFL".
Still, Stefan was made to earn his first Division 1 game, not debuting until 2013, but the lack of experience in the top flight proved to be no barrier. A consistent home and away season was rewarded with the Division 1 2nd Semi Final and, having acquitted himself excellently, the Division 2 Grand Final and the Golden Whistle (awarded to umpires identified as having potential to reach the highest level). Stefan recognises the semi final as a turning point in his career and it remains a career highlight. "I ran alongside Adrian O’Donnell and Matt Westgarth, both blokes who were running extremely well that year. I remember even today how well we all worked together, and the pace and intensity the game was played at. I still consider it one of my best umpiring performances."
Another Division 2 Grand Final in 2014 led to a VFL invite and with a tough pre-season safely negotiated, a spot on the Development Squad for 2015. "It’s been an incredibly tough but rewarding journey to just get on the panel! The real task is to continue to work hard, take on board all of the coaches’ feedback, and just learn from those around you so you can put your best foot forward week in and week out."
If umpiring doesn't work out, Stefan has a pretty good backup plan; he is studying to become a doctor at the University of Melbourne. In the meantime, he's happy establishing himself at state level, seeing how far he can go and, most importantly, enjoying himself. "(Umpiring is) a challenge! There’s always room for improvement...but you really do grow as a person the more years you put into it. You learn so many important life skills and make many friends. It’s just an incredible thing to be part of."