The stellar career of Australia’s most decorated umpire has come to an end with NSW’s own Sharon Kelly announcing her retirement from the Netball Australia High Performance Program following the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015.
Kelly has announced her retirement having officiated in more than 100 Test matches, including five Commonwealth Games (1998-2014) and four Netball World Cups (2003-2015).
Kelly has also umpired more than 100 ANZ Championship matches and every Grand Final since the competition began in 2008. Prior to that, she umpired in the former national league for eight seasons officiating the grand final each time.
She was named Australia’s Umpire of the Year on 13 occasions, including every year between 2005 and 2014. Last year she was recognised for her extraordinary achievements and sporting performances with the `Spirit of Netball’ Award.
Netball NSW President Wendy Archer AM was emotional when paying tribute to Kelly, admitting Australia’s best umpire goes out at the top of her game.
“Sharon Kelly is far and above the stand-out official, not just in Australia, but in the world. She is an outstanding athlete, has had a fabulous career and has been at the top of her game for a very, very long time,” Archer declared.
“She’s cool, calm and collected on court, is extremely well respected by everyone involved in the sport, and has continued to grow with the game along with our fabulous athletes. She has kept abreast of the increasing standards of our game and is an inspiration for umpires across all levels.
“I remember many years ago when Sharon was awarded her National B Badge at Narrabeen, and even then she had a presence about her – a presence that she has carried with her throughout her illustrious career.
“Sharon optimizes what being an umpire is all about, and she will be sorely missed. However on behalf of everyone at Netball NSW I’d like to congratulate Sharon on her fabulous career and wish her all the best for her future endeavours.
“No doubt we will continue to see Sharon around the netball courts,” Archer concluded.
Kelly’s final match at international level was the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015 bronze medal play-off between England and Jamaica, which she umpired with fellow NSW official Rachel Ayre.
“It was the perfect way to go out,” Kelly said. “It was great to finish off on a great game and in front of a world record crowd for a netball match in my home Sydney and with one of my really good friends.
“You just get a feeling that it’s the right time to move on. I’ve had the most unbelievable opportunities to be involved in our sport at such an elite level.
“It’s taken me places that I never thought I’d go and to be involved with such great athletes and showcase our game the best way that we can has been a privilege.
“I’ve met some wonderful people throughout the umpiring, coaching and playing ranks around the world who have had quite some influence on my life. That’s all part of being involved in sport, the shaping of the person that you are.”
Kelly said umpiring had given her enormous satisfaction since she umpired her first game as a 12-year-old in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs Netball Association.
Kelly said her international debut in 1998 remains one of the highlights of her career umpiring the Test Series between Australia and New Zealand and her involvement at the Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cups.
Apart from spending more time with her family, Kelly will remain involved with netball in some capacity.