Michelle Phippard is one of the netball world’s most decorated and respected umpires, but being honest, she said it wasn’t love at first sight. “I was a reluctant umpire. I’d started playing netball when I was about seven, and there was an expectation that you’d start doing your duty when you were 12. I wanted to coach and play, so I had to continue umpiring.”
In her late teens, Phippard was regularly given a ‘working over’ by some older women who played at the Knox Netball Association. While the experience would have put many off, it was a catalyst for Phippard to refine her officiating. She explained, “The competition was run by Bev O’Donnell, Shelley’s mum, and it included women who’d played at a much higher level in their youth.
“Their court craft, smarts and tricks of the trade really challenged me, and afterwards you’d have a chat with them over a cup of instant coffee. So learning how their mind worked started to hone my understanding of what was happening on court, and how I could do better. The mutual learnings and respect that exists between players, coaches and umpires is something that I’ve taken through my career.”