What goes on behind the whistle with Helen George

Business owner, mother of three and just surpassing her 100th domestic game umpiring, Helen George doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

Having reached the highest level of the high performance umpiring pathway, Helen has been blowing whistles on netball courts around Australia and the world since she was just twelve years old.

Receiving her All Australian (AA) umpires award in 2007, and the International Umpires Award (IUA) in 2009 she has gone on to umpire international events including International Test Series and most recently the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

The New South Wales based umpire has also been involved in her fair share of home soil events such as the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, ANZ Championship and the Suncorp Super Netball competition.

Beginning her netball journey at the age of 11 as a player at the Hills District Club, she was quickly recognised as a natural umpire.

“My local association Norman Hurst, actually had a bunch of AA badge umpires who taught me a a lot and introduced me to the big wide world of netball,” said George.

However, picking up the whistle wasn’t always on the mind of the IUA and AA badged umpire.

“I wanted to coach but my mum wouldn’t let me coach, because she thought I needed to learn the rules first,” she said.

George would like to put down the whistle and throw on a bib for old times’ sake. However, a typical day for the high performance official has her caring for three kids, running a motel and all the preparations that go along with umpiring the big games.

“One day I might get back into it, maybe walking netball by that time,” said joked.

With the latest arrival, Mackenzie, joining the family of five, George admits that it’s a constant battle to balance the commitments of being a high performance official and family life.

For all the new mums, Helen believes you have to take it one day at a time and sleep when you can.

“Especially when you have number two and three sleeping it isn’t always possible,” said Helen.

“Living two and half hours out of Sydney, the travel time to get to games adds another level of complexity. Obviously, my husband is fantastic, and my parents help with the kids too,” she said.

“It’s a bit hard to leave the kids with my husband when he is trying to check in guests and there are screaming kids in the background.

“Running your own business can always be a bit full on, and then add in analysing a game which can sometimes take me hours upon hours.”

The family owned motel located on the New South Wales coast was a career and sea change for the family. Although not always being able to get court side, the whole family always support Helen by watching her on the television – which has led to middle child Zoe having a clear favourite in the Suncorp Super Netball competition.

“The little one likes the pink team, otherwise known as the Adelaide Thunderbirds” said Helen.

Even after all these years, the well-versed umpire still feels a buzz before each game. Nerves aside George is thrilled to see the players showcasing their skills.

“You just want to sit yourself and applaud sometimes, some of the stuff they do is just incredible, and it’s great to be a part of it,” she explained.