Australian umpires on show at Commonwealth Games

Sharon Kelly

Australia will be sending the largest contingent of netball umpires to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games with Sharon Kelly, Rachel Ayre, Joshua Bowring, Michelle Phippard and Clare McCabe appointed for the tournament.

The five Australians make up nearly half of the 13 international umpires named for the 11-day competition which gets underway at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) on July 24 between Malawi and Northern Ireland.

The tournament will see Kelly officiate her fifth Commonwealth Games, appearing at every edition since netball’s inception in 2008, while Bowring and McCabe will be making their Games debut in Scotland.

Kelly’s fifth appearance is a testament to her long standing as arguably the world’s best international umpire and caps off a remarkable year which saw her become the first ANZ Championship official to notch up 100 games and umpire a seventh consecutive trans-Tasman Grand Final.

“It’s still as exciting as being appointed to my first Commonwealth Games,” Kelly said. “It’s always an honour to represent your country and your sport.”

The sentiment is echoed by her compatriots with just two weeks until the first whistle.

“Opportunities like this don’t come up all the time so I’m really excited to be heading over, especially with a team of four other Australian umpires, to represent our country,” Ayre, who will be officiating her second Commonwealth Games, said.

“World Championships and Commonwealth Games are the ultimate selections for an international umpire so I feel very flattered and grateful for being able to travel over to Scotland.”

Phippard, preparing for her third Commonwealth Games, said she’s looking forward to returning to the tournament after starting a family.

“The main thing that’s exciting about the Commonwealth Games is that it’s a multi-sport event so it gives us the chance to showcase netball amongst other sports and show everyone how great our sport is and how wonderful our athletes are,” Phippard said.

“For me personally, it’s my third Commonwealth Games and I’ve had a break of eight years between my last Games and these ones, and three kids in the middle, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to be back at that level and participate in an event like this.”

Commonwealth Games debutant Bowring said he was excited about the challenge.

“It’s definitely the biggest appointment that I’ve received so far in my umpiring career so I’m really looking forward to what the Commonwealth Games has in store,” the Tasmanian said.

“I can’t wait to immerse myself in the whole Commonwealth Games and having the chance to officiate the top countries and different flavours that international netball brings is always exciting.”

The opportunity is particularly special and unexpected for McCabe after being added to the umpire panel this week for her first Commonwealth Games after initially being named as a reserve.

“There was a level of shock (when I was notified), I thought it was a joke at first but that quickly turned into excitement and real pride in the achievement and hard work that’s gone into getting there,” McCabe recalled.

“I’m absolutely thrilled and so appreciative of this opportunity; Commonwealth Games and World Championships are the pinnacle of our sport so to get the chance to officiate is just fantastic.”

The five appointments to the Commonwealth Games are a testament to Netball Australia’s ongoing commitment to developing an elite support network for the country’s High Performance and emerging umpires.

Having to take leave from work and unpaid for their international commitments, Netball Australia will provide funding and support to the umpires for their participation in the tournament.

“The preparation prior to the Games and the support we’ve been given (by Netball Australia) as far as access to sleep recovery and those sorts of services for when we get there, same as what the athletes do, has been great,” Kelly said.

“We’re away for three weeks this time because we’ve got a camp on before the Commonwealth Games, so 21 days to be away from family, and 15 of those being work days, is a big commitment and the support is very welcome.”

Netball Australia would like to congratulation Sharon, Rachel, Josh, Michelle and Clare on their appointments and wish them the best of luck.

The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be held from July 23 – August 3.

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