Honest insights: Rising Ipswich umpires improve like players
LIKE players rising up the representative ranks, umpires have to continue learning and adjust to different situations.
That's exactly what Ipswich hockey duo Hayden Michel and Natalie Walker achieved at the latest Australian under-15 championships in Bathurst.
Michel, 21, officiated in the boys bronze medal match won by Victoria over Western Australian Gold.
As a dual registered Ipswich and Brisbane competition player and Australian indoor hockey representative, Michel offered an honest insight into his latest challenge.
"I had a rough start,'' said Michel, who plays for Hancock Brothers in the Ipswich competition.
"I had a banger third match and then just got consistent from there.''
In the same way talented players can quickly sharpen up, Michel was happy how he settled into the championships and finished umpiring his seven matches.
"It's more so just not being queued in,'' the former St Edmund's College student said of the early games.
"A lack of preparation as well as not being into it as much as I should have been.''
However, the Ipswich born and bred sportsman was pleased to finish with the bronze medal game and earn an umpiring upgrade.
The competent all-rounder was at his first Australian under-15 outdoor championships having previously umpired at two under-13 outdoor nationals and one under-13 under titles.
"I'm really enjoying it,'' he said of higher level opportunities.
"It's more emphasis on what you can add to a game as opposed to how you apply the rules well.
"Everyone at 15 should be able to get rule interpretations correct and be able to see things, be in the right position and that kind of stuff.''
He said working with those promising teenagers enhanced his umpiring.
"There's nothing like it,'' Michel said, impressed with the under-15 skill level.
"It's like having a bunch of A-Graders out there that are just little.
"They are switched on and they know what they are doing.
"It's a whole different experience.''
For Walker, her first under-15 national championships were equally rewarding.
"It was actually a really good tournament,'' she said.
"I felt I was pretty consistent over it.
"I was bit nervous starting off but it picked up definitely towards the end.''
Walker, 22, umpired in eight matches. She was reserve for the girls gold medal match between NSW and Western Australia.
"It was really good for my confidence going forward,'' she said.
"It helps me to develop my player management skills . . . and a better understanding of the game.''
In the cold and windy conditions, umpires like Michel and Walker had to bunker down like the players to provide quality matches.
After returning home from Bathurst on Friday, Michel was back playing in Hancocks' latest 5-2 A-Grade loss to Norths. He scored a goal for the defending premiers.
On Sunday, he was also at the Ipswich Hockey Complex umpiring in the two afternoon A-Grade matches.
Having umpired since he was 15, Michel hopes to officiate at next year's under-15 indoor and outdoor nationals.
His previous under-13 nationals in 2018 and 2019 were in Hobart. He officiated at the under-13 indoor Australian championships in Wollongong early last year.
Walker is also savouring her higher level appointments.
She officiated at the national under-13 outdoor titles in Hobart in 2019 and the Australian under-18 indoor titles at Wollongong last year.
The former Norths player is focusing on her umpiring.
Studying her Masters in teaching at QUT, Walker hopes to umpire in future Hockey One matches - the sport's equivalent of cricket's Big Bash League.
"I'm just going to see how it goes the next couple of years,'' she said.