By Tricia Mifsud
Former Broadford resident Justin Barnes has achieved another milestone in his netball umpiring career, officiating the recent grand final of Suncorp Super Netball.
The grand final between the NSW Swifts and Giants was played at Brisbane on August 28.
The honour comes in Barnes’ second season umpiring in Australia’s top netball league, which has suffered two challenging seasons due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Barnes said he was surprised to be selected, and just focused on each game, each week during the season.
“I was just going week by week and seeing what was happening,” Barnes said.
“It is only my second year in the SSN, so I was a little bit surprised when I got allocated by the coaches, but it’s rewarding for all the hard work that’s paid off over the years.”
Barnes said he was nervous about the opportunity leading up to the grand final’s commencement but soon settled in as the game carried on.
“I was nervous from Friday night until the first whistle but after that, it was like any other game,” he said.
“It was an intense game, which what was expected, I thought Giants were going to come back and beat the Swifts, but they didn’t.”
This year to keep the season alive, Super Netball created hubs, first in Adelaide, before moving to Brisbane. The decision on whether the umpires would also join the hubs was voluntary.
“It was another really challenging season again obviously because of COVID-19. Half the season was fly in, fly out around Australia but then that became too hard because of border restrictions,” he said.
“We hubbed in Adelaide to start with then were moved to Brisbane immediately for the remainder of the season, including the finals.”
Barnes works as a senior specialist consultant in insurance and had to juggle the commitment of both his job and umpiring netball.
Due to lockdowns in Victoria, Barnes had been working from home, making the decision easier for him to join the hubs.
“I work from home, but juggling my job and umpiring is a challenge, but lucky I’ve got good timing and planning skills,” he said.
“Whether we wanted to join the hub was always voluntary, it was never like ‘you have to do this’.
“It was different for every person, some people came for a few weeks, some people for the whole time, and some people had to leave because of work commitments back home.”
Now, Barnes is looking ahead to what else he can achieve in the world of netball.
Already reaching the most elite level in Super Netball, he is now aiming to be talent identified in international netball, and be awarded his International Umpire Award, IUA.
“The IUA is the next level, so things like the Commonwealth Games, the INF Netball World Cup, test series and the Constellation Cup,” he said.
“You have to get talent identified, then you work with the international coaches to hopefully work your way to the international badge, which is the highest you can get in the world in netball.”