Footy umpire Mel discovers the key to career happiness

Melissa Sambrooks on the football field
I feel so lucky to be involved in the game I love.

Melissa Sambrooks
Bachelor of Physical Education and Sports Science, Master of Teaching (Secondary)

Melissa Sambrooks is blazing a trail in women's football as one of the first female professional umpires in the game. Now she's combining both of her passions – sport and education – to fulfil her dream of becoming a PE teacher.

“My Aussie Rules umpiring career began at age 12. It all started with my obsession with ballet – being a costly activity and growing up in a single-income home, umpiring helped me supplement dancing expenses. My sister also begun umpiring, and pretty soon mum joined as a goal umpire.

When I was choosing courses, VU stood out for its inclusiveness and commitment to sport. I chose the Bachelor of Physical Education and Sport Science as I liked the idea of becoming a sport teacher. During my degree I completed a placement which helped develop my skills and reinforced my passion for teaching. So after graduating, I progressed to the Master of Teaching (Secondary) specialising in PE and maths.

My umpiring career highlights include the inaugural AFLW match in 2017 between Carlton and Collingwood to a bursting stadium of 24K; the first televised women’s match and being appointed for the 2018 AFLW grand final (on standby).

I feel so lucky to be involved in the game I love. As a kid there was no girls’ football – so being smaller and skinnier than the boys I worried about getting injured.

In umpiring you need to be the best to get further, so there’s pressure to be better than the males to progress. The training is designed around men’s fitness and strength needs. So trying to find the balance of smart training designed for me, as well as studying, work – and finding down time – has been a challenge.

I’ve also just completed the first two placements in my Masters. They’ve helped develop my understanding of the kids and their abilities, so I can create lessons they really benefit from. This is something I believe you can only learn in practice.”

Melissa Sambrooks

Courses studied