Photo Credit: Cricket NSW
On November 15, Australia’s 616th First-Class umpire will make her debut on the WACA Ground to officiate in the men’s Round 5 Sheffield Shield fixture between South Australia and Western Australia, and in doing so, become the first Australian woman to stand in a First-Class match.
For Claire Polosak herself, the chance to umpire this First Class match is just another feather in her cap. She has been NSW’s trailblazing umpire for years now and this is one of the moments the last 15 years of her life have been leading up to.
What she still can’t fathom is her ongoing love of cricket after all these years. She surprises herself every time she stands in anticipation at the boundary at the beginning of a cricket match she’s officiating, her co-umpires and the two teams around her, waiting to walk on to the field. She says she still gets emotional when the national anthem plays before a match, knowing that she’s often a part of greatness.
Now an umpire educator as well and leading the female umpire engagement program at Cricket NSW, Polosak has trained over 200 umpires through over 70 workshops in the last seven years. She says that the game always gives one more than it asks of you. Cricket Central has two umpiring workshops scheduled in December, the first one on December 5 (6.30-9.30 pm) and the second, for females only on December 11 (6.30-9.30 pm).
Cricket Australia has launched its ‘FOR THE LOVE OF’ campaign to promote umpiring and coaching this season, and umpires such as Polosak are calling out to everyone with an interest in cricket to come in and join the sport for the love of it.
“It is a very legitimate way of being involved in the game. If anyone would like to give umpiring a go, you’re welcome to try and see if it works for you,” Polosak said.
Taking up umpiring could be as simple as the love of a new hobby, or the best view of a cricket match, and Polosak lists out the advantages it offers.
“Every day is a different day, you develop skills that are transferable to other aspects of your life, you meet a whole range of different people, and you’re always learning and doing better,” Polosak said.
Through her umpiring, she has made friends all around the world, bonding over the common love of cricket.
Some of the qualities she feels umpires need are a desire to improve the experience of everyone in the game, the ability to be composed under pressure, the ability to accept and receive feedback and learn from mistakes. She says that one of her toughest moments in her umpiring career has been to go out onto the field for the second day of a multi-day match after a known error on the first day. The one thing that has kept her going at the time is her love of the game.
Polosak’s love of cricket started in the 1990s, when, growing up in Goulburn, the annual family holiday would see her being driven to attend the Sydney Test at the SCG. In 2004, as a 15-year-old boarding school student at Hurlstone Agricultural High School in Glenfield, she came across a flyer that advertised an umpire’s course at the SCG. Her father drove up from Goulburn to take her to the Laws course, and then every time she had to go to for a course. “He must’ve driven up about 20 times for me,” she said.
Polosak umpired in Goulburn during the school holidays in 2007 and in 2008, during her first year at university, Polosak started her first season as an umpire in Sydney. She remembers going to her first NSW Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association (NSWCUSA) meeting in 2008 and walking around the building twice, too afraid to go in.
Once she did, though, there was no turning back. Polosak has umpired in WBBL and BBL matches, Women’s International T20 and ODI matches, a variety of men’s matches at different levels, both Domestic and International, and an International Women’s Test match (Australia vs India, 2021-22). She was elevated to the Cricket Australia Supplementary Umpire Panel in 2014-15, and is also a member of the International Panel of ICC Development Umpires.
“The support that you receive as an umpire is second to none,” she said.
She is certain that if anyone joins umpiring for the love of it, they will not be disappointed, but gather a lifetime of experiences through it.