Andrew (Andy) Adair and James (Jimmy) Strybos have been elevated to the AFL Field Umpire List. Former Brisbane Juniors and NEAFL umpire, Matthew Young also joins the AFL list in 2023 having relocated to Melbourne in 2015 for work commitments. The trio join former Brisbane Junior umpires, Andrew Stephens and Alex Whetton on the list. With five Queenslanders now on the AFL field umpire list it is a testament to the strength of Queensland umpiring.
Andrew and James have spent much of their journey on the talent pathway side by side, becoming AFL rookies in 2018. Both have had to overcome disappointments, setbacks, and hurdles. Years of high quality, consistent umpiring have built a body of work matching AFL standard.
Andy joined the community umpiring group from Brisbane Juniors in 2014. That year Andy was presented with State Umpiring Academy heritage number 1 (there have now been 130 umpires through the program) in the revamped program run by Aaron Hall. From there, Andy progressed rapidly through the ranks earning the moniker “Golden Child” by former State Umpiring Manager, James Waldorff (Duffy). Andy was seemingly, always destined for higher honours. Since becoming a rookie, Andy was on the cusp of elevation to the AFL list for a few years, having first interviewed at the end of 2019. Being so close to a dream, can come with its own difficulties, maintaining the work ethic to perform consistently at an elite level.
Jimmy’s journey has been one of perseverance, near misses and redeveloping his body and mindset to make it at the elite level. Debuting in state league (NEAFL) football in 2012, Jimmy umpired his first state league grand final in 2016, remaining near the pinnacle of Queensland umpiring since that breakthrough.
Andy and Jimmy had interviews with the AFL late last year. They described the experience as more of a get to know you as a person, discussing strengths and weaknesses etc. than an actual interview.
Following a successful 2022 culminating in the 2022 VFL Grand Final and VFL Umpire of the year, Andy didn’t have to wait long for his chance with several spots opening up on the AFL list. In late October, Andy’s dream became a reality. Phone calls from Jenno (Michael Jennings – AFL Field Umpire Coach) and Chippa (Adam Davis - AFL Umpiring List & Talent Manager) notifying Andy of the news took a while to sink in.
“It is a bit of a surreal feeling. For myself, it has been a dream for a long time, for it to materialise, it is quite surreal” Andy reflected.
In December, an additional spot opened on the list, Jimmy received a phone call whilst on school holidays on the Sunshine Coast asking if he could interview.
The week before Christmas, Jimmy received the phone call confirming his dream would become a reality.
“I was flying on cloud nine, I can’t believe it has happened, especially with all of the ups and downs over my career and journey.” Jimmy said.
Jimmy and Andy attended the AFL Umpires pre-season camp recently in Coffs Harbour. Spending time with the other umpires on the list, gave both an opportunity for their achievements to sink in and look forward to the upcoming season.
Immersing themselves with the group of experienced household names, including Matt Stevic and Brett Rosebury. The theme of the camp was “Belonging”.
“The one thing that stood out to me on camp, there are no real Alphas, there are definitely leaders, but everyone got on like a house on fire.
“I felt right at home, on the first night, it was fantastic.” Andy said.
Being elevated onto the AFL list in the same year has made the process extra special. The duo were stoked for one another, excited to continue sharing this unique journey together.
“Just push each other to be the best that we can, to hopefully push us both to the highest levels of AFL football.
“Now we are on the list together, I would love to see Andy get finals and go further” Jimmy said.
To go from a step below the AFL to making the list requires significant self-development, overcoming hurdles over the journey and finding a way to consistently perform to an elite standard. Andy and Jimmy have both faced these challenges and grown not only as umpires but as people in the past few years.
Andy has a couple of key messages that have shaped his journey.
“Taking your opportunities when they are given to you, just running with it, making them your own and putting 100% effort in.” Andy explained.
Andy had the opportunity to become an AFL rookie in 2018 when Alex Whetton was elevated to the AFL list following Chris Kamolin’s retirement.
The first couple of years on the rookie list, Andy admitted he took the position for granted, cruising along, thinking the next step would just happen. Andy had overcome a stress fracture in his lower leg in early 2021, missing the AFLW season and much of the VFL season. The extra motivation from missing opportunities in 2021 and a change in mindset propelled Andy to new heights in 2022.
“A lot of it is taking ownership of your game and performances.
“Whether it is reviewing each of my games, each of my errors. What was the root cause of that error, what could I have done to prevent it.”
“Even things like, I need to work on my change of pace.
“Last year, I spent a lot of time working with Farra (Chris Fawcett, Queensland based, VFL coach), working on my change of pace to make a better position on the field.” Andy reflected.
Jimmy identified process and not concerning himself with uncontrollable factors, like scoring systems as a major contributor to being where he is today. Each week, Jimmy keeps his review simple, focusing on consistency.
“What is one thing I can work on for next week, to be more consistent as an umpire and make sure my teammates know, what they are going to get each week.” Jimmy explained.
Jimmy’s fitness has been an area of huge growth in recent years allowing his umpiring to prosper.
“Being a taller, more solid sort of character, I can look different to others when I move around the field.”
“I feel like, the last few years, I have been able to show a consistent side of my running and the way I can move around (the field). Jimmy observed.
Jimmy realises though, that there is still more work to be done.
“It is only the beginning of that journey as well, it gives me a lot of confidence now, that I have overcome the challenges so far. Now, I want to build on it.” Jimmy emphasised.
There are many coaches, peers and mentors along the journey which contribute to a person’s success on the sporting field.
Andy credits Duffy as playing a big role in his umpiring journey. Duffy was Assistant Academy Coach when Andy joined the academy starting a relationship that grew over time. Andy rose to state league footy rapidly, umpiring alongside Duffy, before being coached and mentored by him. Duffy was a constant pillar of guidance and support over the years.
Steve Davis ran the club umpiring program in Aspley when Andy first picked up a whistle. Steve was involved in Brisbane Juniors for several years alongside James Price and Lachlan Chambers.
“Steve had a bigger impact, than he realises on me.
“The way he was able to guide me and lead me into umpiring.
“I probably owe my first couple of years club and junior umpiring to him and the assistance he was able to give.” Andy reflected.
Steve was one of the first people Andy contacted when he received news, he was elevated to the AFL list.
“It is those little things in umpiring, that are really nice.
“Knowing, that you have had an impact on someone else and you have made them proud.” Andy said.
Jimmy’s mentors include AFL Umpire Matt Stevic and current VFL Coach in Queensland Chris “Farra” Fawcett but pays special tribute to his Dad (David).
“My Dad, (was a big influence), he was an umpire himself, he would be the first person to message after a game with, ‘Well Done on this, what about that, kind of questioning, which makes you think a bit deeper at times.’ Jimmy said.
The Queensland AFL community can’t wait to support both Andy and Jimmy in their respective debut AFL matches and wish them long and successful careers.
- Article by Justin Lillecrapp -