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Young umpire relishing opportunities on national stage

If McKynlee Breen was asked to look for a silver lining in this year’s disrupted netball season, she would point to the extra time she has found to reflect on what has been a whirlwind 12 months of whistling.

The COVID-enforced break has also given the promising young umpire a chance to rest a troublesome meniscus injury in her knee.

“I’ve had an opportunity to listen to my body and take a rest,” the Bachelor of Health Sciences student said. “It’s also meant that I can actually look back to last year and go ‘wow’ that was pretty intense.

“It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind so I really like that chance to reflect on what I did.”

As Breen stumbled into umpiring as a Year 12 student at Marlborough Girls’ College, she soon learned she enjoyed running the side-line and on moving south to Christchurch, decided to take whistling more seriously.

Now it is her chosen sport.

“I’m fitter now than when I was playing secondary schools netball at high school,” she said. “This is the sport I want to play and I find the challenges exciting in umpiring.”

Breen knew little about the netball scene in Christchurch when she arrived but made contact with local umpire coach Jane Hickmott and was quickly welcomed into the umpiring fold.

“They’re such an amazing umpiring community here and have been incredibly supportive,” she said.

By the end of 2018 she had gained her New Zealand theory and just a few months later was having her name put forward to umpire at the Netball NZ U17 Champs in Auckland.

It was an opportunity she didn’t want to miss but Breen recognised she needed her New Zealand Badge to be able to control games at a national tournament.

Wheels were put in motion and her chances of umpiring at the next level became a reality.

“The next thing I knew I was being assessed for my New Zealand Badge – it all happened so quickly,” she said.

The Netball NZ U17 Champs was an experience which has only whetted the appetite for Breen who had her “eyes opened” with the different styles of play.

“It was really different,” she said. “I really enjoyed it in the sense that you could go out and try something and keep working on it every day. It was a great learning experience.”

She went with an expectation of soaking in as much knowledge as possible but her performances saw her awarded the national final.

From there Breen was also selected to umpire at the Netball NZ Secondary Schools Champs.

Like many sportspeople, she has dreams of representing her country at the highest level but the 20-year-old has kept her short-term goals simple.

“I just want to improve every time I go out there,” she said. “For me personally, it’s about performance goals.

“And for me to take those steps I know I need to be exposed to those different games, that different style – it’s really important.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing where umpiring can take me.”

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