Andrea Gibbs on Barracking for the Umpire


Award-winning drama Barracking For The Umpire is back!  The play, which tackles the impact of footy on its players with warmth and humour, won the 2022 Performing Arts Award for Outstanding New Work, and it’s now set to be turned into a film. Not bad going for first-time playwright, Andrea Gibbs. She chats to The Starfish.
Congrats that Barracking For The Umpire is being performed in Perth again, then regional WA. How did that come about?

Well, the inner workings of Kate Champion and Black Swan’s programming minds are a mystery to us mere mortals, but I’m over the moon it’s back!  Its initial run proved to be very popular, but thanks to the hokey pokey of COVID lockdowns and border closures, a bunch of folks missed out. Not this time though! I’m all sorts of excited, I mean, who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
Why do you think this work resonates with so many?
I think it’s the family you are seeing onstage. You’re rooting for them from the get-go because they feel like your own kin.  You laugh with them, at them and you can’t help but care deeply about where they end up. It’s like peering over the fence into your neighbour’s yard and realising, hey, they’re just as weird as we are. A bit flawed, and a whole lot lovable.


It’s set in your home town, Donnybrook, and based on true events. What, in particular?

My Dad, Geoff, was a Mighty Don from 1967 to 1972, captaining the Under 18’s at just 16. He wasn’t the best player, but snagged runner-up Fairest & Best once. The prize… an Esky. Dad trained as hard as he played, which meant a lot of big knocks. The concussion protocols back then were “Can you walk? Can you talk?” Yep. “Well, get back out there!” There are many things he can’t remember about those games. After one big knock, his Mum, Betty, forced him to go to the doctor who recommended he stop playing. Dad pushed on, even wearing a helmet but that only made him a bigger target. Eventually, the physical toll forced him to hang up his boots and he traded them in for an umpire’s whistle. Umpiring the SWFL was a role he cherished.  Mum would even go to all of his games and cheer him on. She was the only one there ever barracking for the umpire. This is the story of what life would have looked like if my Dad didn’t stop playing and continued to get knocks to the head.

When did you first decide to write this work, and was it emotionally taxing to do so?

Writing is scary and hard.  Well, for me anyway.  I call my office chair ‘the torture seat’.  I love it when I get on a roll with a narrative though, and characters start to write themselves. I find that part energising.  Problem is I have to wade through a swamp, boots full of mud to get to that sweet spot.



The subject of footy players suffering brain injury has never been more topical. Not everyone could turn this topic into a fun night at the theatre, but you tackled it with humour. Was this an easy choice; and hard to do? 

I think it was my only choice. When sadness tries to gatecrash the party, it’s the Gibbs way to crack a joke – must be in our DNA or maybe it’s just a West Aussie trait?

 Why did you want to set the play in Donnybrook?

It’s my home town.  And I love the place.  I feel like I won the childhood lottery growing up there.  Community, farms, motorbikes, horses.  Also, country people rarely get to see themselves on stage. This play? It’s a big ol’ cheers to them.
Has everyone you grew up with there gone to see it, and if not why not?!

Heaps of people have seen it.  My very proud Dad has made sure of that!



Is it going to be performed in regional WA any time soon?

Yep, see dates on Black Swan’s website.

And now we hear the play is also to be potentially turned into a feature film by Screenwest. Is it much of a challenge, transforming the work into a movie, or did you always imagine this could happen when you wrote it?

Yes, I am currently writing the screenplay of Barracking for the Umpire with help from Screenwest, and in collaboration with Vincenzo Perella and Dan Osborn. We’re making really exciting progress and have a lot of confidence in the story to adapt well onto the big screen.
   The encore season of Barracking For The Umpire is at Subiaco Arts Centre from April 23 to May 5. For details visit

One thought on “Andrea Gibbs on Barracking for the Umpire

  1. Gday Andrea
    reckon you’d be worth a game in a forward pocket… you know much more about the golden game than a lot of sweaty blokes who pull on the boots in winter.
    Agree with every word. Though you have lived so up close with this stuff you could be charged with insider trading.
    It’s a great story about humans in full roar and happens to be wrapped in a footy parcel;, a fabulous play and cinema might even take it up a notch more somehow.
    The slam of those fabulous genuinely sweating rough-cut blokes on stage was as thrilling as watching John Worsfold shirtfront Tony Modra.
    Please keep pedaling steadily so you don’t cool down. Could be a Brownlow in this for you …or whatever trophy the arts world offers to a fair dinkum champ.

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