Our Game - Women’s stories shaping sport - Grace Raphael and Bridie Mackay

By Tyler Maher

McPherson Media Group has partnered with Valley Sport to bring you Our Game: Women's Stories Shaping Sport highlighting the brilliant and often under-appreciated, contributions females of the region make to their sporting clubs and organisations, on and off the field.

Each week a different district female athlete, leader or champion will be highlighted — so make sure you contact MMG or Valley Sport to nominate those around you to be profiled in the series.

This week, Shepparton's Grace Raphael and Bridie Mackay are featured.

Umpiring at any level of sport can be a daunting task, but Grace Raphael and Bridie Mackay are tackling their new craft head-on.

The teenagers recently took up boundary umpiring with Goulburn Valley Football Umpires Association, and are looking forward to getting back out on the field when sporting competitions eventually return.

Mackay is somewhat of a generational official having watched her father goal umpire before picking up the whistle herself, but also enjoys tenpin bowling and netball and has a talent for finer arts like dancing — specifically ballet and jazz.

“I started boundary umpiring because I wanted to get fit, meet new people and I got influenced by my dad who is a goal umpire,” Mackay said.

“I am doing Zoom classes for dance and Saturday morning umpire training (throughout the sporting lockdown).

“(I'm) doing yoga six days a week and occasionally going for runs.”

Raphael found umpiring through her friends at school, realising once she started that it combined two of her favourite pastimes — football and running.

“My favourite sport is football and I enjoy running,” Raphael said.

“I do all of the running events at school athletics and I do cross-country for school every year and it's just something I enjoy doing.

“Exercise is good for your mental health and exercise can have immediate (and) long-term health benefits.

“It stops you from getting cardiovascular disease and things like that, so it's not just important for women it's important for everyone.

“I found out about footy umpiring from some of my friends at school, they told me about it and they said that I should do it.

“So I went to training one day and I really enjoyed myself, so I have just kept umpiring.

“Another reason why I do footy umpiring is because I want to be involved in local footy and I enjoy keeping fit.

“I enjoy training and I enjoy being around people, I guess you can say that I am a very social person.”

Mackay feels that female changerooms across the region could be upgraded to help attract and retain more women and girls to not only umpiring, but sport in general.

“Women who are active in sport influence younger girls to feel more confident and have a good self-esteem in themselves,” she said.

“They will develop skills such as leadership skills and teamwork.”

While Raphael likes to approach challenges in her life with Michael Jordan's words of wisdom in the back of her mind.

“(My favourite quote is) ‘Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just illusions’," she said.

“The reason why I like that quote is because it's telling you that if you want to be great at something then you need to try your hardest.

“You need to reach the point where you actually feel like you have no energy, when you feel like you have done 110 per cent.

“Another reason is because I like how he links it to fear because fear is just in your head really.”

More in the Our Game series


Rylee Alderton

Megan Wood

Amy Marshall

Dossie Parnell

Erin Blachford