GRAND Final umpire Matthew Nicholls says the next frontier for the game is to have female field umpires officiating at AFL level.
On Tuesday, the AFL announced that South Australian Eleni Glouftsis and Victorian Lucinda Lopes have been placed on AFL Female Pathway Scholarships in a bid for them to reach the senior field umpire list in the coming years.
"I think it's brilliant," Nicholls said.
Glouftsis, 22, umpired 15 SANFL games in 2014 and will move to Victoria to chase her dream while Lopes has been umpiring in the VFL after being promoted from the Northern Football League in Melbourne's metropolitan competition.
Director of umpires Wayne Campbell said the two would be involved in the AFL umpires' program next year, with their development based on the player-to-umpire program that has seen former players fast tracked.
He expects Glouftsis to move towards being a rookie in 2016 and being ready to umpire an AFL game in three to four years time.
Glouftsis, a physical education teacher, said her passion for football led her into umpiring and her gender was not important.
"No-one treats me any differently and that is the way I like it," Glouftsis said, adding that players and spectators had been supportive.
"I think if people choose to disagree with the decision, they are going to regardless of gender," Glouftsis said.
Glouftsis and Lopes, 20, said they did not face any additional difficulties to those of male umpires – they needed to meet the same fitness requirements, bounce the ball and be in the right position.
"You are going to be picked on your merits. We have been lucky enough to be chosen in this pathway which is obviously for females, but apart from that we face the same challenges as the boys do," Glouftsis said.
Lopes said she was looking forward to the challenge of moving through the ranks.
The AFL has had three female goal umpires – Katrina Pressley, Chelsea Roffey and Rose O'Dea – and is hoping to extend that to field umpiring.
Campbell said the initiative could strengthen the pool of umpires and also showcase the diverse backgrounds of those in the umpiring ranks.