AFL Riverina competitions may soon face the prospect of club umpires officiating in first grade football if numbers don't improve in the whistle-blowing ranks.
Riverina Umpires Association (RUA) have issued a call to arms for more officials to come on board and help with a growing shortage amid a 20 per cent decline in numbers.
RUA president and umpire lead coach Ryan Dedini has revealed the group are currently walking a fine line when it comes to meeting their senior commitments.
"The numbers are really tight," Dedini said.
"This week's a good example. I'm still juggling around to work out what we're going to do for this weekend because we'll be running twos (two umpires per first grade game) in most of them.
"Obviously on your larger grounds like Narrandera and CSU, you'd like to have three, because with two blokes and when the footy's quick, you can't keep up with the play.
"A lot of the guys in our ranks are a bit older, they don't train as much because once they've had their game for the weekend, that takes it out of them."
Dedini said ideally the RUA would love more numbers crossing over from clubs.
The RUA are confident they have convinced one club umpire to try first grade with them this weekend and want more to give it a go.
"Ideally the clubs is where we'd like to get them from," he said.
"They're guys who are going to have a bit of an idea straight off the bat. They've got a football background so it's not going to be hard to teach them those fundamentals of umpiring."
Dedini said the consequences, if numbers don't improve, are severe.
"What will happen is it will get put back from the RUA coaching panel to AFL Riverina to ask the clubs to appoint club umpires to senior football," he said.
"That itself can open up a major can of worms, especially in first grade football."
Dedini said umpire numbers at junior level are strong, boosted by last week's First Bounce Introduction to Umpiring night that attracted 20 more kids to the ranks.
He added that father-son duos had also provided a boost in recent times with the likes of Christin and Boston Macri, Brett and Aidan Koschel, Ken and Andrew Taylor and Andrew and Hugh Schmetzer just a few of the families helping bolster umpire numbers.
Dedini encouraged anyone to get in touch with the RUA, or to come along to the weekly training session on Wednesdays at Jim Elphick Tennis Centre in Wagga from 6pm.
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"People think they come to be an AFL umpire, you come to training and we flog you, you're doing laps of the oval but it's not. You do a little bit of fitness but we'll get you up, we'll have vision, we do work on the whiteboard because we want to educate people," he said.
"That's the biggest thing, we want to educate people on the laws of the game and the interpretation because Aussie rules is an interpretation sport and the more people we can get with a similar interpretation is going to be better off for the game."
Dedini also indicated that RUA will run sessions throughout the year that are targeted at introducing ex-footballers and club umpires to umpiring.
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