Emma Stark


Get to know the young Territorian kicking goals on and off the field.

Young people across the Northern Territory are accomplishing amazing things every day. One in particular to keep an eye out for is AFL superstar and umpiring legend, Emma Stark. At only 16, Emma has kicked many goals on and off the field.

Not only was she the 2022 Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the recent Northern Territory Sports Awards, she has numerous other awards under her belt. Some of her most notable awards include Zip Print’s NT Young Achiever of the Year as well as both the NTFL 2020/21 U15 Girls Best and Fairest Sharyn Smith medal and the Leading Goal Kicker Medal, she then backed it up with winning the 2021/22 TIO NTFL U18 Girls Best and Fairest medal.

Emma first started umpiring in netball, a sport that she played from 2014 to 2021, starting off at Northern Districts and ending at Pints as part of the Darwin Netball Association, choosing to instead focus on AFL and preparing to enter grade 12 in 2023.

Emma began umpiring netball in 2018 to gain a better understanding of the rules and earn some money in her first ever job. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to not only play AFL but also umpire it, just as she had been doing with netball.

Emma explained that Australia is currently facing an umpire shortage, with UmpireAFL being 6,000 umpires short due to the playing of AFL being more popular than the officiating of it, unlike Emma who loves playing and umpiring equally. Emma has discovered how doing both can be beneficial.

“When field umpiring, I know a bit of background knowledge of the game and where the ball may switch to,” Emma said.

“Similarly, as a player and having background knowledge with the rules, it becomes very handy when setting up for play.”

Not only does umpiring allow Emma to be involved with the other side of the game she loves, it also allows her to connect with her idols.

“I feel even more grateful when I get to connect with my very own idols such as AFL umpires when visiting down south,” Emma said.

“I love that subconsciously field umpiring helps you develop amazing life skills such as leadership and confidence.”

This year Emma has not only been the captain of her team, she also made her NTFL Women’s Premier League umpiring debut, however, she is no stranger to umpiring premier league AFL games. In 2021 Emma debuted as the youngest ever female Men’s Premier League field umpire.

Emma credits a lot of her success to the mentors and role models in her life who have helped shape who she is today.

“I believe having goals and idols is one of the best things that you can do for yourself: it allows you to look forward to something, and show a clear pathway of where you want to go/succeed in life,” Emma said.

With all of the distractions available these days, it takes extra dedication and focus to accomplish as much as Emma has. Emma detailed the certain tactics she implements off the field in order to balance such a busy schedule that includes school, umpiring and playing AFL. Emma stays motivated by reminding herself exactly why it is she is working so hard, keeping in mind the goals that she is aiming to reach.

Organisation also plays a huge role in keeping up with all facets of her life. By sitting down every Monday and planning out her week in advance, Emma is able to squeeze as much as she can into her week, including family and social commitments, football training, umpire training, games, interstate trips, appointments, netball umpiring and school work.

As is a challenge for many 16 year olds, and even many adults, screen time can be a huge time waster. Emma explained, “I will admit procrastination can be a hard challenge at times, whether it is due to social media, communicating with others, or simply not feeling motivated. However, a strategy I use to help overcome this is the ‘screen time’ setting Apple provides on my phone. I limit myself to using social media on weekends only unless it’s the holidays.”

Fast facts about Emma Stark:

  • Pump-up song for her Men’s Premier League debut: Unstoppable by Sia.
  • Hobbies: hanging out with friends, family and her 2 dogs, swimming and riding her bike, especially around the beach.
  • Idols:
    • AFL field umpires:
      • John Howorth #17
      • Eleni Glouftsis #34
    • AFLW players:
      • Chelsea Randall #26 Adelaide Crows
      • Ebony Marinoff #10 Adelaide Crows
    • Family:
      • Karen Stark - mother
      • John Armstrong - uncle
    • Support team:
      • Don Cooke
      • Umpire AFL
      • Northern Territory Football League Umpire Association (NTFLUA)
      • Jarred Ilett (2021/22 football coach)
      • Saint Mary’s Football Club (SMFC) Thunder Academy.

Words of wisdom:

You are the only one to drive your own success! More specifically, you are fully in control of what you believe you have potential for. As an athlete there is always support available or you, but you must be dedicated and motivated to achieve your own goals.”

Emma Stark receiving an award

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