COVID-19 restrictions put paid to Netball ACT umpire Trent Rawlings’s dream of officiating at this year’s National Netball Championships in Hobart, but he’s not giving up yet.
Rawlings says he will continue to strive for perfection in a bid to be selected as part of next year’s umpires’ pool.
“When I was informed the National Netball Championships had been cancelled it was disappointing, however I knew it was an incredibly difficult decision to cancel such a major event,” he says.
“I stay committed to getting to nationals and am working hard at our [Netball ACT] State League competition to prepare for the next opportunity to officiate at such an event.”
Rawlings’s knowledge and understanding of the game stems from being an athlete as well as an umpire. Last year he was selected for the ACT Griffins team that attended the Australian Men’s and Mixed Netball Championships in Melbourne.
“Being able to go along and see the mixed and men’s at a national level, and being selected to umpire for the female nationals this year, you do get to see a broad range of skills and the sport developing in different areas, specifically the men’s and mixed at a national level,” he says.
“It is just fantastic. The game is getting faster, the level of participation continues to grow, and people are stronger and fitter.”
Rawlings says it is great to see women moving into refereeing and umpiring in male-dominated sports, while men are finding their place with the whistle in women’s sports.
“Being able to officiate in a female sport and seeing more male umpires is a positive thing,” he says.
He entered the netball community through the encouragement of friends who wanted him to join their social netball team.
“I wanted to understand all aspects of the game from a rules perspective before going and attempting to play,” says Rawlings.
“I was what I would call an older person getting into netball – I would have been in my early 20s. Anyone can get into netball at any age, but I was playing with people who had been playing since they were a little kid.”
Rawlings started umpiring Saturday morning games at Lyneham and then moved to higher grades as his confidence and skills improved.
“I moved into umpiring on the outside courts at the Canberra Netball Association and from there moved into more challenging matches, a higher standard of games and then into playing as well,” he says.
The highest achievement for an umpire in Australia is being accredited with an All Australian (AA) badge, and achieving one is Rawlings’s ultimate goal in the sport. He approaches his preparation for umpiring like an athlete approaches training.
“Just like an athlete looks for consistency and development in their game, I am looking for the same in my umpiring,” he says.
The introduction of The Capital Spirit to Netball ACT’s high-performance pathway provides a development opportunity for umpires. The Spirit are playing in this season’s NSW Netball Premier League and Rawlings is excited at the possibility of being exposed to the game at that elite level.
“The Premier League is next level and being able to officiate it would be a great opportunity,” he says.
“For me, it is about continuing to share the knowledge I have, continuing to develop that consistency and working with players at all levels.”