City Academy Norwich duo get set to shine on netball’s big stage

PUBLISHED: 09:52 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 01 April 2014

Netball stars at City Academy in Norwich. Gary Burgess and Sophie Hansell. Photo: Bill Smith

Netball stars at City Academy in Norwich. Gary Burgess and Sophie Hansell. Photo: Bill Smith


Two staff members at City Academy Norwich are celebrating exciting netball call-ups.

Netball stars at City Academy in Norwich. Gary Burgess. Photo: Bill Smith Netball stars at City Academy in Norwich. Gary Burgess. Photo: Bill Smith

The Earlham school’s head of student standards, Gary Burgess, has been confirmed as an umpire for this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

And Sophie Hansell, City Academy’s sports manager, has been called up for the Indoor Netball Association England mixed squad.

It is an exciting time for the duo, as well as a perfect chance to show their pupils what can be achieved through dedication to a sport.

For 33-year-old Burgess, it will be his second time officiating at a Commonwealth Games, as he was also called up for Delhi 2010. He also umpired at the 2011 World Championships in Singapore and has been named England umpire of the year five times.

Being a netball umpire.....

“I’ve never played the game and some look at that as being to your detriment but it really hasn’t been an issue because I umpire the game by the rule book.

“But I see it as a positive that I don’t get involved in the idiosyncrasies of the game, I just umpire what is in front of me. Some people say you don’t know all the little secrets of the game but it doesn’t seem to have been a problem for me.

“The respect we get is more similar to rugby than football, not ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ but you get very little backchat and you very rarely send off someone in netball, I’ve sent off two players in 10 years.

“I always say it is a game for ladies, played by ladies.”

Gary Burgess

Burgess, who teaches PE and science, said: “There will be a lot of England supporters and home supporters which is something that I’ve not really experienced before. There will be a lot of people around that I know so I always like umpiring in this country.

“In India (in 2010) it was very unsafe, you couldn’t really just go out and watch the other sports. I did it once but it was a nightmare to get back from the coach afterwards, so it’s nice to think we’ll be able to see some of the other sports.”

Huge interest in netball has already seen the final moved from the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) to the nearby Hydro, to make another 4,000 seats available.

Burgess will see his Commonwealth Games dictated by the success of England. He was able to umpire the gold medal clashes between Australia and New Zealand at both the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2011 World Championships, as England were in the bronze medal match both times, beating Jamaica both times.

The game has allowed Burgess to experience some top level events and he is clearly proud of his achievements.

“I do a lot of guest speaking at sports awards and events like that and I talk about repackaging failure,” Burgess added.

“Everyone dreams about representing their country as a player and I realised reasonably young that I was a good sportsman but that I wasn’t going to represent my country so I picked up umpiring.

“I soon realised that doors to umpiring at the Olympics in hockey were closed because of experience and age so I went down a different path with netball.”

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