The Vitality Netball International Series, as part of the Netball Quad Series, is on home soil this weekend (Saturday 20th and Monday 22nd) with the second half of the competition being played in South Africa (25th-28thJanuary). Umpires Gary Burgess and Jackie Mizon and International Umpires Assessors Margaret Deighan and Jo Kelly will be on hand with whistle and note pad. We caught up with Gary and Jackie and asked them a few questions.
You have consistently been officiating at the highest level for a number of years now. What does it take to be at the top for such a long period of time?
Jackie: It takes a supportive family, total commitment to maintaining fitness and mental toughness. It can be lonely when travelling on your own half way round the world but the rewards in being able to umpire the top international teams is huge, in both what we learn and as an acknowledgement of all the hard work I have put in.
Gary: Hard work and a lot of luck. I have been very lucky to not get any significant injuries during my career so this has meant that I am able to be available when the INF call. Regarding selection, I guess ultimately you have to be umpiring consistently well throughout the domestic season and also put in good performances when you do get appointed to internationals to ensure they keep coming.
What differences are apparent when you umpire in different countries (weather and climate aside!!)?
Gary: When I first umpired in South Africa in 2005, during a training session I could not work out why the bibs all had different letters on them. I was quickly informed that the front of the bibs had the English initials on and the back had the Afrikaans initials. I did double check that in the matches the players would be wearing bibs with English initials on both sides as it would have been very hard. Netball is a global sport so the biggest difference is often the language barrier. The beauty of netball though is that decisions are all supported by specific hand signals which bridge this gap. That’s why it is so important to ensure you use only the ones you find at the back of the rules book.
Jackie: The game doesn’t change wherever you are in the world. It’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and gain different perspectives on the game of netball.
With all the travelling you do, what are your top tips for dealing with jet lag?
Jackie: From the moment you step on the plane for the outward journey, change your clock immediately to the country you are travelling too. If you arrive during the day don’t give into sleep, get out into the sunshine and keep hydrated.
Gary: I’m always told to drink plenty of fluids on the plane and on arrival get as much sunshine (without sunglasses) during the day and then sleep in a very dark room.
On match days do you have any pre/post-match rituals/superstitious?
Gary: I always drink the same brand of sports drink during the match and roughly only drink half of my bottle each time. I also have some buzz words written down as reminders of things to be aware of going into each quarter.
Jackie: I have the same warm up routine which I do and I must wear the same style of socks when umpiring – if I wore a different style of sock now it would just be wrong!
With the Commonwealth Games on the horizon (4th-15th April), how are preparations going?
Gary: This series is a very good bench marking exercise for everyone involved. The teams will be able to check out their competition but us as umpires can get a really good view of how much work is left to do. I feel in good shape (even if there are few more mince pies to lose) but being assessed at this level will give me a good idea of what I need to look at in training matches to ensure I hit the ground running when I arrive on the Gold Coast.
Jackie: The Quad Series is a great way to kick start the new international year and valuable prep for the Commonwealth Games.
Supporting the umpires on the English leg of the series are Margaret Deighan and Jo Kelly who will take up the position of Umpire Appointments Panel (UAP). We caught up with both of them ahead of the weekend.
When asked about their initial thoughts when the INF appointed them to the role, Margaret said: ‘I am delighted to be appointed to any international event – it’s an honour.’ A sentiment Jo echoed when she said: ‘It was great. I was appointed to the Quad Series when in England last year, working with the top four teams and top umpires in the world along with Margaret who is so experienced it’s just great.’
But with the rule changes coming into effect from the 1st January, had this impacted the pair’s preparations?
Both commented: ‘Yes, we received our new rules book and studied it so that we are fully conversant with the changes ahead of the series.’
The Quad Series will be played out over six test matches with three in England and three in South Africa. In England, matches will be played in London (Copper Box) Saturday 22nd January – South Africa v Australia and England v New Zealand and Monday 22nd January England v Australia. In South Africa (Johannesburg) South Africa v New Zealand (25th January) and Sunday 28th January Australia v New Zealand and England v South Africa.