Thank and respect umpires was the theme of round three, but from round four onwards, it is protect the umpires, as the league has enforced escorts for them each game. After the abuse the umpires copped during the Mullewa game in round three, the league has taken a stance on making sure they are treated with respect. As a result, Mullewa’s home game from round four was moved to be a Railways’ home game. Before the season began, the WA Football Commission made the trip all the way up to Geraldton and spoke with each club individually, making sure an incident like the brawl between Mullewa and Brigades colts from last season does not happen again. In this workshop, the role of ground manager was first introduced and it would be a requirement of each club to provide one at every game. Until now this had not been enforced but after the Mullewa game in round three, the league has decided to make the ground manager compulsory. A social media post put up by the GNFL Umpires Association outlines the role the manager will play, requiring them to wear hi-viz vests and provide escorts for the umpires on and off the field at the start/end of each game, as well as at half-time. The league said it was the responsibility of each cub to provide these escorts and that the ground manager was required to nominate them to the umpires at the start of every match. The ground manager will also talk to the umpires at the end of each quarter, ensuring they have no issues with any spectators. GNFL president Carissa Bellottie said this was just an update to the role that had been put in place since preseason. ”It’s nothing new, it’s just not something that we have had to put in play before, we are just basically reiterating that this is the role of the umpire and it includes providing escort to the umpire,” she said. “We just never utilised it because it didn’t seem necessary at that time.” Frustration from the umpires has resulted in the drastic measures being put in place, with the arguments from Mullewa spectators spilling out into the car park and a brawl breaking out in round three. Ms Bellottie said that while the situation was not ideal, it was in the best interest for umpire safety. “It is disappointing we do have to put it into play, but at the end of the day it helps support our umpires and ensure they are getting on and off the ground safely,” she said. Even with the shortage that many clubs are seeing with volunteers, this is seen as the best compromise after the umpires had threatened to boycott games entirely. Mullewa president Mick Wall declined to comment.