Taking to the sporting arena with the world’s best athletes. Interstate and international travel fully paid for. Beach recovery sessions and family and friends supporting from the stands.
You’re probably thinking life as a top athlete sounds like a pretty decent gig.
But we’re not talking about athletes.
If all goes well across the two weeks of competition at the Commonwealth Games, you won’t even notice this group of professionals doing their thing right in front of you.
The Commonwealth Games’ netball umpires have come from far and wide to officiate at this year’s event, and take their job every bit as seriously as the athletes who’ve spent the last four years preparing for their moment in the Gold Coast sun.
In fact in most cases, our Australian umpires have been preparing for this moment for decades.
Michelle Phippard, Marc Henning, Josh Bowring and Helen George are the Aussie umpiring contingent at the Games, with each of them bringing a wealth of experience at elite international and domestic level.
CHAMPION IN WHITE: Phippard to take 100th international game in stride
Henning, who is officiating at his first Commonwealth Games, said that just like the athletes, being picked for the Games was a career-defining moment.
“On an international scale, for me, appointment to the Commonwealth Games Gold Coast is the pinnacle achievement. To be amongst the world’s best Commonwealth athletes across an array of sporting codes is extremely exciting,” Henning said.
“Also, that this appointment is in my home country means my parents will be travelling up to the Gold Coast from Victoria to see me umpire, which will be really nice.”
Henning was tipped into umpiring when he met experienced A-grade umpire and mentor Maureen Lambert, who eventually hooked him in and began his transformation from keen social player to elite official.
“We would always chat about netball and eventually Maureen asked if I’d be interested in taking up umpiring. I thought, ‘why not’, and really liked it,” he said.
Many years and 41 Suncorp Super Netball caps later, along with tournaments in New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa, Cook Islands and Singapore, Henning is a rusted-on member of the Australian elite umpiring fraternity.
But while Henning fell into umpiring almost by accident, for George and Bowring the well-worn “netball is life” mantra rang true in their families from an early age.
“It’s all due to my mum, who pretty much took me to all her netball games – and there were many – as a kid,” Bowring said.
“Watching it for so long, when an umpire didn’t show to one of her games I gave it a go, and it all took off from there.”
George said she also had her mum to thank for kickstarting her long umpiring career, after being steered away from coaching and towards a whistle.
“I wanted to coach, however my mum wouldn’t let me until I had learnt the rules. I loved it from the start. Thanks, mum,” George said. Phippard, meanwhile, will chalk up her 100th international match at some point throughout the Games on the Gold Coast, having officiated at three previous Games, three World Netball Championships and nine national championships in a long and illustrious career in white.
Thinking about kickstarting your umpiring career? Why not jump online today and complete the Foundation Umpire Course? Follow this link: https://netball.com.au/get-involved/umpiring/accreditation/foundation-umpire-course/