Ruling the roost
By CHRIS GILMORE
UMPIRING is usually a thankless task in any sport.
That's why when Lismore youngster Cameron Alley was asked to umpire a final in the recent State Under-13 hockey championships at Taree, it was a pretty big deal.
Cameron and another local youngster, Steven Knapman, both of whom play Under-15s for the Northern Star club, have received glowing praise for their recent performances umpiring junior hockey matches.
"I like helping people have a good fun game," Cameron said when asked why he likes umpiring.
Cameron, a Year 9 student at Lismore High School, said he had played hockey for six years and had umpired for three.
He got into hockey because he thought it was 'more interesting' and 'a bit different from what other people were playing'.
He said being selected to umpire a State championship final was a big honour.
"It made me feel like I was doing a good job," he said.
Cameron's umpiring was also helped by specialist umpiring coaches at the State championships, who offered advice after games.
Umpiring with Steven was also helpful, Cameron said, because they could help each other out on tough calls and talk about different aspects of the game.
"I'm hoping to go further with it and improve as much as I can," he said.
One person who has been particularly impressed with the pair is Far North Coast junior umpire coach John Bridge.
He said Cameron and Steven could easily go on to umpire at higher levels.
"There's a career there for them if they want it," Bridge said. "The next step would be State level."
The duo have impressed so much they even have their own sponsor.
Pat Walsh, from Lismore Curtain and Blinds, has stepped in to offer them proper brightly-coloured umpiring shirts.
"They look very professional," Bridge said.
Bridge, a former State-level umpire, has been coaching local junior hockey umpires since the start of the year, and was surprised at how many people took an interest.
"We held a seminar with about 100 people earlier this year," he said.