Touching down just six weeks ago, top-rated Australian umpire Josh Bowring has quickly embraced his new Wellington lifestyle and the opportunity to expand his netballing credentials.
Gaining his International Umpires Award (IUA) in 2009, Bowring has been an elite level whistler for 11 years and joins a burgeoning pool of top-quality umpires coming out of Netball Central Zone. Seven from the Zone, including Bowring, were recently selected in the 14-strong National Umpire Squad, those charged with controlling matches in the ANZ Premiership and Beko Netball League.
Bowring will also be one of four New Zealand umpires to officiate at July’s Netball World Cup.
In a rare move for an umpire, Bowring, 29, had no qualms about upping stakes from his home city of Hobart in Tasmania and relocating to what he fully endorses as the `coolest little capital in the world’.
``I had holidayed in Wellington several times and I’ve really loved the city and loved the vibe,’’ he said. ``It was a good time for me to make a bit of a change and I thought that Wellington would be a nice little home for a while.
``It could be a year, it could be 12 years, I’m not really sure. There is potential I could be here forever and I’m really looking forward to not only the netball but also experiencing Wellington life and learning more about the New Zealand culture which really fascinates me. I am absolutely excited.’’
Bowring credits the support of Wellington IUAs Gareth Fowler and Ann Hay for helping make his lifestyle change a possibility.
``They have been just amazing, very accommodating, very supportive and very encouraging,’’ he said. ``Everybody has been very welcoming and just very, very friendly, so my impressions are very high.’’
Quickly gaining honorary Kiwi status also sits more than comfortably with the recently transported Australian.
``I’m happy to be claimed as a Kiwi, that’s all good,’’ he quipped.
The easy-going and affable Bowring had his first taste of officiating at the ANZ Premiership pre-season tournament in Ōtaki on February 8 – 10 where his credentials were put under the microscope.
``The pre-season tournament was bit like a selection process for me,’’ he said. ``I wasn’t assured of a spot in the squad and had to earn it. Netball New Zealand have a really great transparent process when it comes to selecting new people in the high performance squad.
``I attended the pre-season high performance umpiring camp and then was screened at the pre-season tournament.’’
With an indefinite timeline on his current venture, Bowring is excited by the challenge and the opportunity to continue his personal development in a new system that offers a different style.
``There is a certain difference for me coming in, particularly because the ANZ (Premiership) truly is a national competition, that is, the athletes are mainly home grown as opposed to import-based. I’ve come from a competition (Suncorp Super Netball) which is very much a world-based competition in Australia which has imports everywhere.
``The style of play here is uniquely Kiwi and for me that does present some really exciting challenges within my umpiring. Reading play is slightly different as the Kiwis play a more spatial zone style so there are a few transitions for me to make. Primarily, it’s about immersing myself in watching more of that Kiwi style of play so I can get a better feel for it.
``If you come to the point when you think you know it all in umpiring, then you’re certainly mistaken because, like the athletes, there’s always things that you can be better at. Being exposed to new environments definitely can make you grow as either an athlete or an umpire.’’
Central Zone umpires named in the National Squad:
Angela Armstrong-Lush, Josh Bowring, Gareth Fowler, Ann Hay, Jess Lea, Ken Metekingi, Paul Smith.