National art stage for Zephie

DELIGHTED: Zephie with the umpire's uniform featuring her design.
DELIGHTED: Zephie with the umpire's uniform featuring her design.

It is an opportunity of a lifetime that has left a 14-year-old Gladstone High School student speechless. 

Zephaniah ‘Zephie’ Neil’s artwork featured on the back of the green umpire’s uniform which was worn in the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous round in the AFL over the past two weekends.

The design, originally painted in ink in Zephie’s art class at the Worawa Aboriginal College depicts the calm thoughts that Zephie had on the day. 

“My design is about turtles protecting their nests from sea life. Their nest is in the ocean which is very different because they are usually on the sand but I made it in the ocean.”

“That day when they told us to make a design, I was very calm and so I thought of turtles because they are beautiful calm creatures.” 

Pride and happiness were reflected in the reactions from Zephie and her family upon finding out about her design’s success. 

“My mother was very happy, she was crying happy tears. My family were like ‘yes’!”

“I watched it, my family were in the background saying ‘that is my daughter’s design’ and I was just laughing, I was so happy.” 

The boarding school Zephie attended in Melbourne works with AFL Victoria, in particular the umpires and had a selector who came into the school and chose the art specifically for the uniforms. 

“I was speechless, just amazed. I did not really think it was going to get picked.”

Zephie’s original design was in ink and only a quarter of the size, her art teacher flipped the design and it was printed three other times to fill the shirt.