By Jackson Russell
Broadford’s Justin Barnes has reached the pinnacle of Australian netball umpiring, receiving his All-Australia badge.
The badge allows Barnes to umpire netball at Super Netball and international test netball.
Barnes worked his way through Netball Australia’s High Performance Umpire Pathway after being talent identified while umpiring in the Parkville Netball Association.
Beginning his umpiring career at 15 years old at Broadford, Barnes also coached the Broadford Football Netball Club’s A Grade netball side for several years.
Barnes has worked his way through Netball Australia’s accreditation system, which includes four tiers of badges from C to AA (All-Australia).
Throughout his journey, Barnes progressed through the Victorian Netball League, national junior championships, Australian Netball League grand final and international tournaments in Hong Kong and Malaysia, before getting a shot in the big league Suncorp Super Netball.
Barnes said receiving the All-Australia badge was a rollercoaster of emotions after umpiring at the elite level for five years.
“It was mixed emotions because it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of international and domestic travel to reach that award,” he said.
Barnes said the criteria to receive the badge was the toughest test of his umpiring career.
“You’re coached and mentored through Suncorp Super Netball during the first round and you have to be umpiring at a consistent level at all times with minimal errors before you get through to the testing stage where they put you in front of a panel of experts. You can’t even get one wrong,” he said.
“It’s taken five years within the High Performance Umpire Program to get to that standard.”
Barnes said he was thankful for the support he had received from the Broadford community.
“Family, friends and the club have been very supportive and it’s a big acknowledgement of the dedication and hard work that was put into my umpiring from 2007 to 2020,” he said.
While the biggest moment of his career was umpiring the gold medal match at an international tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 2018, Barnes said the pressure of being in Super Netball’s Brisbane hub was enormous.
“It’s been challenging in the hub, you’ve got two games a week then your own physical training and your own full-time job on top of that,” he said.
“It’s very demanding living in a hub for three months but it’s very rewarding receiving that AA badge.
“[The hardest thing is] the intensity and ensuring your decision making is accurate as this is an elite sport and this is their job. One decision can turn a game within two seconds.”