Matthew (Youngy) Young made his AFL debut at Carrara Stadium on Sunday, umpiring the Gold Coast Suns vs Geelong Cats Round 3 AFL match.
Melbourne has been home for Youngy since 2015, umpiring in the VFL, forging a path to the AFL List. Queensland though, will always be home, having started his football journey playing for Jindalee Jaguars. Youngy’s first game playing Australian Rules, was officiated by a first game umpire, our very own VFL Field Umpire Coach, Chris “Farra” Fawcett.
Youngy’s officiating journey began umpiring club football at Jindalee, in 2006, before moving onto Brisbane Juniors. Some of Youngy’s fellow umpiring mates at the time were future AFL umpires Alex Whetton and James Strybos, VFL umpire Chris Melin and state league umpires Ryan Downes and Tyler “Higgo” Higson.
Youngy was considering giving up umpiring before it really got started. This changed following an invite to the State Umpiring Development Squad led by the passionate, quirky personality, Nic “Palmy” Palmer.
Palmy ran things a bit differently. The precocious aforementioned names were on the journey together forming lifelong friendships. Youngy grins broadly when asked to recollect a particular “training” night organised by Palmy.
“One night, we thought we were doing something to do with umpiring, Palmy told us to be at this place.
“He took us ball room dancing, like lessons!
“We were matched up with these older women and we were doing ball room dancing with them.” Youngy recalls.
“Palmy’s mantra was to get out of your comfort zone.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
“It was character building for us, to get ourselves out of our shells.” Youngy surmised.
Youngy made his NEAFL debut in 2012, umpiring two finals in 2012 and 2013. Sitting the bench for the 2013 NEAFL Northern Conference Grand Final, well-known Queensland names, Aaron Hall, Andrew Stephens, and Jason Baldwin (7th state league grand final) the running umpires.
2014 was somewhat a year of stagnation in the rapid rise thus far. Former AFL boundary umpire, Grant Kent encouraged Youngy to make the move down to Victoria to give VFL Football a crack in a different environment.
With no job lined up or family in Melbourne, Youngy made the leap of faith to follow his AFL dream. Youngy was able to live with fellow Queensland umpire Andrew Stephens who was already on the AFL List at the time.
Queensland State League Field umpires coach in 2013-14, Cameron Nash had moved into the Head Coach role in the VFL in 2015, coinciding with Youngy’s move south. This connection helped to ease the stresses of transitioning into a new environment from interstate. A successful first year in Victoria, Youngy umpired the 2015 TAC Cup Grand Final.
The following years, Youngy dealt with consistent injuries, the worst a 12-week layoff in 2019 due to a grade 3 hamstring tear.
We all remember COVID lockdowns, Victoria having particularly long lockdown stints. After years of injuries, niggles and not getting a full, consistent season, Youngy used the time off as a line in the sand moment.
“I thought, ‘Do I want to keep getting injured or am I going to do something to change it.’” Youngy reflected.
Youngy sourced expert knowledge from fitness coaches, worked to strengthen specific areas of their body which were continually breaking down and started training the house down. The months of training during COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 translated to significant improvement in fitness and strength. Youngy improved his 10km run time from more than 40 minutes (still very impressive) to an elite 35 minutes.
Asked for one area which has helped them prepare and be ready for a spot on the AFL List. Maybe surprisingly, it is not the improved fitness and injury free years but prioritising off field improvement and knowledge of the laws.
“I used to think it was just fitness and the rest would take care of itself.
“The last 4-5 years, I have spent the equal amount of time watching vision, revising laws, following up with coaches.
“Honestly, the last couple of years, seeking clarity from coaches and asking questions has been more important than my fitness gains.” Youngy said.
Looking toward officiating in an AFL match for the first time was a mix of excitement and nerves.
“Overriding excitement for sure, certainly a bit of nerves.
“It will be a proud moment, I know what I have put in, over the last 17,18 years and what it has taken to get there.” Youngy said days before their debut match.
It is in a way, completing the circle for Youngy, having made their NEAFL debut on the Gold Coast in 2012, beginning the umpiring journey at Jindalee Jaguars, umpiring his first AFL match in Queensland just feels right.
“It gives me a sense of comfort that I am doing it back home.
“Even though, I haven’t lived there for 8 years now, I am proud that I still have a lot of friends that I am close to in Brisbane.
“I mean it is almost like all the pieces of the puzzle have come together perfectly, the stars have aligned.” Youngy reflected.
Congratulations on a successful debut Matt and all the best for your career, we will be supporting you along the journey.
Article by Justin Lillecrapp