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Fisher joins the whistle blowers

Former St Kilda player Leigh Fisher umpires the 2011 NAB AFL Under 18 Championship match between Queensland and Tasmania at Skilled Stadium, Geelong.
Leigh Fisher is hoping to join AFL umpiring ranks
FORMER ST KILDA defender Leigh Fisher will use this month's NAB Cup to try to become the next ex-AFL player to make the transition to umpiring.

Fisher, who played 55 games for the Saints between 2003 and 2008, will officiate in next weekend's second stage of the first round of the NAB Cup.

He will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Essendon and Carlton midfielder Jordan Bannister, who made such a huge impression last year in his first season as an umpire that he was chosen to officiate in a final.

Fisher has spent the last few seasons working his way through various levels of the game and will be one of 14 umpires from around Australia bidding for the two remaining places on the AFL senior list for 2013.

Brett Ritchie and Michael Jennings are the two senior umpires from 2012 who are no longer on the AFL list.

AFL umpires manager Jeff Gieschen said that the opening round-robin matches of the NAB Cup would feature two trialing umpires at every venue.

"Like the clubs, we need to use the opening round of the NAB Cup to assess our younger blokes and use what we see in games to make some calls," he said.

One umpire who won't feature in the opening round of the NAB Cup but who has returned to full fitness is Ray Chamberlain, the enigmatic whistleblower who missed all of last season because of a knee injury.

Gieschen admitted that the umpiring ranks were slightly depleted when it came to experience last year following a raft of retirements at the end of 2011.

"Having Ray out compounded that, but he received his medical clearance a fortnight ago and is back in full training. He's been taking part in the club visits and taking part in practice matches."

Curtis Deboy was the fastest field umpire over the pre-season, clocking 16:21 for the 5km run. Darren Wilson was the fastest boundary umpire (14:51) while Steven Axon (19:42) was the quickest of the goal umpires.

Wilson is emerging as a noted endurance athlete. He beat 2100 competitors in a race up the 73 floors and 1333 steps of The Stamford Hotel in Singapore, with a time of 7:13, and then placed in the race up New York's Empire State Building.

AFL Media senior writer Ashley Browne is on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne