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Inspired young umpire now helps others

Jane Robinson exemplifies the role volunteers play in the Netball community, their inspiration often being life-changing for others, and sometimes, in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Instrumental in helping establish the Hauraki Plains Centre during the 1970s, Jane has worn many hats over the years but developing umpires has been her abiding passion. A chance meeting with a 20-year-old Wirihana – more commonly known as Wids – Wilson in Huntly in 2011 set in motion a heart-warming story which reinforces the impact volunteers have.

``My coach at the time said everyone has to have a turn at umpiring and I knew nothing about umpiring except that they had a whistle,’’ Wirihana said of his umpiring origins.

``It was probably a week or two later that Jane was doing a workshop here in Huntly. I went along to learn a bit more, so I didn’t look like a complete newbie when I was umpiring on the court. That’s where it all started and since then I’ve fallen in love with it.’’

From that beginner’s class nine years ago, Wirihana was recently one of 12 named in the Netball New Zealand Zone Umpire Watchlist, those on the list having been identified as future top performers and who will be given new opportunities to further their experience.

The friendship they formed helped motivate both of them to take the next steps forward on their volunteer journey.

It was another three years before Wirihana and Jane crossed paths again, when she presented him with his Zone Badge, a moment that cemented their special connection.

``I was only the second person at our little Centre (Eastern Waikato) to get their Zone Badge, so it was a big deal and ever since then, we’ve just been really close and I consider Jane a really good friend,’’ Wilson said.

Wirihana has now followed in similar footsteps to Jane, helping out wherever he can in volunteering his knowledge and experiences, providing quality experiences for others.

A long-time course facilitator for aspiring umpires and umpire coaches, Jane said it has been a joy to be involved with Wirihana.

``He’s the kind of person who just takes everything on board and is very humble,’’ she said.

``It’s lovely, as a coach, when you’ve got somebody like him, because he’s like a sponge and just soaks it all up.

``It’s the nature of things that you will get some umpires who will disappear, others who do it because they have to and that’s fine. We just have to accept what people are able to give but with Wids, he doesn’t just umpire, he is also very wise in the advice he gives to people, helpful, generous with his time and is probably the umpire that I have seen from the beginning, who has progressed the quickest and to a higher level than anyone else who I’ve had dealings with.

``What is really neat, is that he is so humble still and remains very encouraging to a little Centre like ours. He will give really encouraging and positive comments to our umpires and that’s great.’’