James rules the AFL umpiring roost
HE might sport the tattooed arm of a superstar full forward, but veteran field umpire Matthew James has found a new calling in the Far North.
The recently appointed umpire manager for AFL Cairns is set to oversee the profession's development in schools while bringing a wealth of experience to the local umpiring fraternity.
"Professionalism is something I'll definitely be bringing to the group," James said.
"That leads to better umpiring which leads to better football."
James, who officiated at 206 AFL matches and three grand finals (2001, 2002 and 2004) before retiring in 2010, said he judged the local competition as being at a "good standard".
One of his key goals is to eventually have a Cairns umpire make it to the AFL, as he looks to the next generation coming through the ranks.
"We're definitely going to push the schools program and hopefully set up an academy base where we'll work with the school and have them teaching umpiring as part of the curriculum," James said.
"Obviously, developing an even better relationship between the club and umpires (is another goal), so getting to train with them more and working out how we can improve both.
"We want to make umpiring fun and make it part of football."
The longtime Collingwood supporter will also pull his weight on the field, officiating at matches when required.
AFL Cairns president Gary Young labelled James' appointment asas "absolutely inspirational" for the local game.
"Someone who's had three grand finals and has been chosen year after year as the player's umpire is a wonderful asset to have," Young said.
"We've got to lift every aspect of our game and umpiring is one of those."
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Major goals: Matthew James sets his sights on a new era for umpiring in the Cairns region. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS