JONTY Beard will join the ranks of the local AFL umpiring elite when he pulls on the green uniform for his first TIO Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Premier League game this weekend.

What makes this appointment so special is that Beard is believed to be the first autistic umpire to make the main grade, in the Territory at least.

Beard was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at age four. He attended mainstream school and enjoyed watching and playing many sports as a boy, including AFL. 

He played for TIO NTFL Nightcliff juniors to U16 and was a keen cricketer as well, but his passion has always been AFL umpiring.

His first umpiring game was in April 2014, when he officiated an U12 juniors game - having just turned 13 himself

Jonty Beard has always had a passion for umpiring. Picture:

"I guess my autism gives me a special skill – and that is knowing the rules and not diverting from them," he said.

"I’m never really concerned about what is going on around me out there – I call what I see by the rules and that’s the game."

Proud parents Clem and Wendy Beard says the journey has never been easy, but umpiring has always come naturally to Jonty.

“His autism has been a challenge but there’s a part to it that we all smile and know that things like umpiring are a breeze to him. I’ve always said if he puts his mind to it he can do anything, yes it might take a little longer than others, but he gets there,” Wendy said.

“Whereas others might dwell on a decision, he just knows what to do, understands the rules, removes the emotion from it and gets on with it.”

TIO NTFL umpire coach Simon Walker said Jonty deserved his call-up to the top grade.

“For the umpiring fraternity, Jonty represents what is truly special about any contribution to a sport – he has achieved this after hard work, dedication and what at first might seem against the odds,” Walker said.

“But we all know that Jonty has a very special skill – he knows the rules, studies them to a tee; and interprets them on the field so the players are left in no doubt about the call.

“Jonty deserves this call-up and the accolades that go with it.”