Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience Wrap-up


On Saturday, 31 July, young ACTDSA member Matt Barrett took the field at Manuka Oval wearing an AFL umpire’s tracksuit and an ear-to-ear grin.

As part of the Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience provided by the AFL Umpires Association, Matt shed allegiance (for one day) to his favourite footy team (GWS Giants) and joined the match-day umpires officiating the GWS Giants v Richmond Tigers game.


The Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience is a great initiative, which is held at AFL games across the country and gives people with Down syndrome the opportunity to be an official AFL umpires’ assistant trainer at a match in their home town.

Matt is a foundation GWS Canberra member and an all-round sports fanatic, so he was no stranger to Manuka Oval. But entering the oval without his GWS fan gear was new to Matt, who took his impartial role with the umpires seriously, even when he visited the GWS Giants room and had a pre-match chat with his favourite player, Phil Davis.

As an official assistant trainer, Matt was thrilled to be issued with AFL umpire trainers’ gear and have his name listed in the AFL Record match program. After meeting the umpires before the game, Matt led the umpires onto the ground while carrying the match day ball aloft, participated in the pre-game preparations and warm-ups, then watched the game from the boundary line and assisted the umpires on the ground during breaks.

As Matt helped the umpires, his family and friends were in the crowd cheering him (and the GWS Giants) on. Fellow ACTDSA members Woody Menzies and Miles Blackburn also received tickets for the day and met the umpires, courtesy of the AFL Umpires Association.

After the game (which GWS Giants won with an impressive 111 points over Richmond’s 23 points), Matt received a signed match-ball and words of thanks from the umpires for the great job he did on the day. Showing his commitment to the umpires, Matt continued to wear his umpire’s gear for the rest of the day, including out to a special celebratory dinner that evening.

While the Match Day experience concluded as he left Manuka Oval, Matt’s pride in his role continued and was evident as he showed off his name in the AFL Record to his school-mates in the days after the event.

ACTDSA thanks the AFL Umpires Association for their generosity and everyone who came out to support Matt on Saturday, 31 July. Not only were you supporting a great event (and witnessing a great GWS win), you were part of a record crowd!

We hope to welcome the Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience to Canberra again next year and we will be sure to let you know when information becomes available.

The Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience is a partnership between the AFL, the AFLUA and Down Syndrome organisations around Australia. The program shines a light on the talents and abilities of young people who can experience social isolation and limited opportunities to participate in sport and recreation. The AFLUA is proud to provide this a unique opportunity for people with Down Syndrome and their families. To follow this program, please like the Sportability Facebook Page  and follow @sport_ability on Twitter and Instagram.

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