Netball NSW umpire Sharon Kelly still gets a rush of excitement in the moments before she blows the whistle for the opening centre pass to start a match.
The experienced umpire hailing from Northern Suburbs Netball Association has done it countless times over her decorated career – she’s been named Netball Australia’s Umpire of the Year 11 out of 12 times.
But that feeling was extra special when Kelly became the first umpire to officiate 100 ANZ Championship matches over the week.
Kelly – along with Josh Bowring and NSW colleague Helen George as reserve – was in charge of the clash between Queensland Firebirds and West Coast Fever at Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre yesterday, Sunday 27 April, with the home side taking honours by 17 goals.
Speaking to ANZ Championships before the match, the Netball NSW mentor said she was delighted to be involved in the world’s best domestic netball 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 ANZ Championships.
“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 admitted.
Kelly – the mother of three boys; Todd, Blake and Bradley – has officiated every ANZ Championship Grand Final since the inaugural season 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 that week before.”
At international level, Kelly has officiated almost 100 test matches including four Commonwealth Games, and has been appointed to the umpire’s pool for this year’s Games in Glasgow, as well as three World Netball Championships.
After establishing such a glittering career, Kelly 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 netballers in action up close every 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.”
Netball NSW would like to extend our congratulations to Sharon on reaching her personal milestone, and thank her for all her efforts at State, national and international levels.
Article first featured on www.anz-championship.com