The first female to umpire an AFL game, Greek Australian Eleni Glouftsis, has been named the 2019 SA Young Australian of the Year and received 2019 Australia Day honours in South Australia for her services to football.
After starting her career as a whistle-blower in 2008, and progressing through the SANFL junior ranks, Ms Glouftsis, who also served as sports captain at her school Adelaide High, became the first woman to be a field umpire at the senior level of that competition in its 137-year history in August 2013.
Ms Glouftsis was then placed in the AFL female pathway scholarship in 2015 and made history last year umpiring her first match at the elite level when Essendon and West Coast met in round nine at Etihad Stadium.
Football operations manager Steve Hocking paid tribute to the 26-year-old for her development.
“Eleni has dedicated a number of years to the game, and in doing so, has provided young women across the country with a visible pathway to the elite game.
“On behalf of the AFL, we would like to congratulate Eleni on this great honour and thank her for her continued and dedicated work umpiring AFL football,” Mr Hocking said.
Growing up in a Greek Australian family and being the youngest of three children, Eleni knows a thing or two about grit, determination and hard work whilst she says she receives continuous support and encouragement by her family.
“There have been so many people to thank for their support in me being able to reach this point,” she says Ms. Glouftsis, expressing her gratitude to her mother Dianne, father Tom and beloved nanna, who have yet to miss one of her games.
“The support, respect and encouragement I have received from my colleagues and players at every level has also been overwhelming,” she adds.
Whilst the South Australian is the first female field umpire, there have been several female goal umpires who have officiated at the highest level with the first being Katrina Pressley in 1998. The most prolific has been Chelsea Roffey, who made her senior debut in 2004 and umpired the 2012 Grand Final.
Ms. Glouftsis also works as a school teacher and trains on a daily basis in order to keep up with the extreme demands of the game.
“My focus going forward is to improve my fitness and inspire other young girls to get involved with AFL and umpiring,” she concludes.