National 'A' umpire honour

It's been more than 40 years since the original Springwood Netball Club had it's first national A grade umpire, so when Michelle Thomas scored the achievement recently there was plenty of reason to celebrate.

Can umpire at the top NSW level netball: Photo: Clusterpix photography

Can umpire at the top NSW level netball: Photo: Clusterpix photography

The Blue Mountains Gazette reporting on the first national A umpire badge for Springwood Netball Club.

The Blue Mountains Gazette reporting on the first national A umpire badge for Springwood Netball Club.

Club stalwarts Bernadette Kime and her Mum Colleen Kime said the first national A grade umpire was Lyn Lake from Springwood 42 years ago, who was part of the original Springwood Netball Club. The newest and second ever National A, Michelle Thomas, was given the honour at the small club earlier this month.

Bernadette Kime called the "pocket rocket", who originally hails from Winmalee, "Blue Mountains Netball Association at Lapstone's second ever National A". Thomas has been umpiring since she was 13 and umpiring state league for the past 25 years.

She was awarded the national achievement on October 15 at Origin Energy Premier League Netball NSW at Homebush in a game between North Shore United and GWS Fury.

"The [BMNA] umpires convenor put me forward to Netball NSW to be nominated ... they decide each year for the premier and metro league umpire pools," Thomas said.

She was one of six umpires in NSW to be awarded their National A in 2020 - the top level in NSW.

Thomas, 46, will be eligible to umpire premier league matches, the top NSW netball competition, running down the sideline of matches being played by "girls half my age".

The early childhood teacher said she will take part in a five week training program next year to be ready when the season recommences in April, with the hopes she will remain in the premier league pool. It involves "much faster and stronger games and yes, a lot more running, their skill is amazing," she added.

Both the Kimes assisted the top umpire in her early years.

"I'm so happy for Michelle and can't stop smiling for her," Bernadette said.

As a senior umpire she said "managing a full-time or part-time job and that level of umpiring is challenging, but you do it for the love of it".

"It's been rewarding to finally get there, so wonderful to have so much amazing support ... those who have coached me ... over the years."

The report garnered plenty of support over social media with Margaret Russell commenting it was "long overdue". Colleen Kime said Michelle has "worked so hard" and deserved the National A. Mel Brown added "No person more deserving."

One of her first representative coaches, Kay Suffield, added her support with Thomas saying "it was lovely for her to remember [me], netball really brings people together".