Meet the Norfolk netball umpire who will face a ‘pressure cooker situation’ at the World Cup
PUBLISHED: 13:20 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 11 July 2019
A Norfolk man who is one of the world’s leading netball umpires has revealed he is happy to miss out on the World Cup final, if it means England can win the trophy.
Gary Burgess has been a netball umpire for 20 years after picking up his whistle at university to make himself more employable as a PE teacher.
The 39-year-old from Bergh Apton has gone on to umpire two World Cup finals and two Commonwealth Games gold medal matches and in 2016 left his job as assistant principal at City Academy in Norwich to take up a full time role with England Netball.
He will be one 17 umpires, none of whom get paid, at the Netball World Cup which starts in Liverpool on Friday, July 12 but as an England fan, he hopes he won't have to take charge of the final.
"Patriotism always comes before personal achievement," said Mr Burgess. "The impact netball has had because England won the Commonwealth Games gold medal on the Gold Coast has been absolutely fantastic.
"I absolutely would put all my achievements into a wheelbarrow into the changing rooms and say 'here you go you have these and get onto that final'". The England Roses, coached by Tracey Neville, are one of the favourites for the world title following that historic gold medal but will face stiff competition from Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and South Africa.
All 60 matches are being held at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool and with many sessions sold out Mr Burgess believes there is going to be an amazing atmosphere.
"It will absolutely be a pressure cooker situation," he said. "Everyone in the crowd is in a bowl around the top of the court so the crowd will feel really on top of you.
"It's going to be very exciting and certainly the English crowd do know their netballers and they do know the rules and what they like and what they don't like."
Despite working away a lot of the time, Mr Burgess still follows the netball scene in Norfolk and recently umpired a local league game at Open Academy.
And he has urged people who want to watch elite level netball to support their local teams in the county.
"Norfolk is dominated by two really successful clubs, Thoroughbreds and Norfolk United, who both have teams in the national premier league.
"My advice to everybody who wants to see that high standard netball is they don't need to necessarily travel all the way down to the Copper Box in London to watch England play, they have got high level elite netball on their doorstep."
Three netball rules to be aware of
Never watched netball before? Here World Cup umpire Gary Burgess explains three of the most important rules to be aware of.
1. Footwork: "You are not allowed to run with the ball but that absolutely does not mean netball is slow. Netball is probably 10 times faster than basketball."
2. Contact: "We say netball is a non-contact sport but actually it is more physical than that. It resembles half way between the physicality of football and rugby but is very skilful. Players are not allowed to contact each other so you can't take the ball off somebody else."
3. Distance: "You can only defend from 3ft or 0.9m away which means a lot of timing on intercepts is required to actually get the ball off someone else or really good running passes which are intercepted."
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