Kelly blows her whistle on milestone

2014 Round 1 ANZ Championship game - Swifts v FeverEXPERIENCED umpire Sharon Kelly still gets a rush of excitement the moments before she blows the whistle for the opening centre pass to start a match.

She’s done it countless times over her decorated career, but the feeling will be extra special in Brisbane this Sunday when Kelly becomes the first umpire to officiate in 100 ANZ Championship matches.

Kelly will be in charge of the clash between the Mission Queensland Firebirds and West Coast Fever for her milestone match and the Sydney-based umpire said she’s delighted to be involved in the world’s best domestic competition.

“It’s an honour to reach that many games and to become the first umpire in the league to reach that (100 game milestone) is an extra bonus,” Kelly said.

“To be part of the best domestic competition in the world is an honour for all the umpires on the panel and I still love what I’m doing every week.

“I still get nervous before every game.”

Kelly – the mother of three boys Todd, Blake and Bradley – has officiated at every ANZ Championship Grand Final since the league began in 2008 and said the standard of players and umpiring has improved every year.

“Every year it’s getting more competitive, faster and exciting and as umpires we’ve got to keep up with the evolution of the game,” Kelly said.

“Just like it is to the players, every game is important (to the umpires). I’ve never seen a perfect game by an umpire yet but we’re always out trying to do the best that we can and improve on what you’ve done the weeks before.”

At international level, Kelly has officiated almost 100 Test matches, at four Commonwealth Games – and has been appointed to the umpire’s pool for this year’s Games in Glasgow – as well as three World Championships.

Kelly will be joined in her milestone match on Sunday by Joshua Bowring with Helen George as the reserve umpire.

She says one of the best parts about being an umpire is the friendships she’s made through netball along with being able to watch the world’s best athletes in action up close very week.

Umpires play a crucial role in netball at levels and Kelly said the elite level athletes and officials are important role models.

“The respect that the players give us – and we have to earn that respect – does filter right down to grassroots level,” Kelly said.

“So the respect that we as umpires show the players, and vice versa, is really important to showcase our sport so right down to the grassroots they can see what a great sport it can be and how we all can work together to make it a great sport.”