While much of their work occurs without fanfare, one of the Wimmera's finest whistle-blowers was acknowledged at the AFL Victoria Community Football Awards.
At the recent event, AFL Wimmera-Mallee head umpiring coach Cam Pickering was awarded the 2021 Greg Sidebottom Memorial Umpire Coach of the Year.
Pickering was appointed as head coach in 2020 and has led throughout one of the most challenging periods in community football.
"It's great for our group, it's great recognition for a bit of the pathway we've tried to establish in the last few years," he told The Wimmera Mail-Times.
"It shows that we're on the right trajectory to get umpiring in the region in the limelight.
"For the umpiring in this region, myself and the other coaches had a bit of a vision a couple of years ago of where we'd like to get to, and this is great recognition.
"Jason Muldoon's pulled a bit of a swiftly in being the manager of the AFL Wimmera- Mallee and nominating me."
While the nature of 2021 left some football clubs struggling to field two sides, in July, Pickering told The Mail-Times that umpiring numbers in the region were sitting "unprecedently well".
Pickering believes the group has "taken some big leaps and steps forward in the past 12 to 18 months".
"Which bucks the trend of umpiring and playing in the last 12 to 18 months," he said.
"We've been able to use it as an opportunity to rebrand and relaunch with lots of support from the AFL umpiring department.
"In that time there's been some governance restructuring in the AFL Wimmera-Mallee and we've been able to partner up and align ourselves with them.
"They've been incredibly supportive."
According to Pickering, some of the success of the AFL Wimmera-Mallee Umpires group can be attributed to their ability to create a "family environment" with a "diverse array" of people.
"(We've focused on) just being simple, not overcomplicating, making it really inviting and making sure we are the third team on each and every Saturday," he said.
Despite there always being room for improvement, Pickering's award is a testament to the umpiring group's advancements under his leadership.
"Over the last five to ten years we've had a fair bit of turmoil and what not with the governance of umpiring," Pickering said.
"It's been a little bit of a mess, and we've slowly been clawing our way back with getting the support of our leagues and the AFL Wimmera-Mallee and building back up our group to be successful and sustainable.
"This is very much a recognition of our whole group and what we've been able to achieve this year and our whole coaching panel underneath me, which we put in place at the start of this year."
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