Madeline O'Nial

All about Madeline

I started umpiring in 2007 at Echuca and District Netball Association (EDNA).

After playing/umpiring with the Kyabram Football Netball Club in the Goulburn Valley League for 9 years I decided to take a break from playing and focus on umpiring at the start of 2018. 

After moving to Bendigo last year I joined the Kangaroo Flat Football Netball Club for the 2020 season. It’s been a very long preseason so I can’t wait to finally play a game for the club. 

I have been very fortunate to be selected to umpire at a couple of National Netball Championships in the last few years and even got the opportunity to reserve an ANL match in Melbourne last year. In 2018 I was awarded my National A Badge. For over 5 years I have been regularly umpiring in the VNL Wednesday nights and some weekends. 

As a 14-year-old I began umpiring in the local Saturday competition at EDNA with the kids just starting out playing netball. From there I gradually grew in confidence and skills to move up to the higher grades. 

After deciding to follow my sister to play for Kyabram in the GVNL in 2009, I umpired A Grade every week. As a 16-year-old it was quite daunting however it helped me develop my skills even more and helped with my confidence in taking those further steps in development. 

Balance is so important and I am very fortunate to have the support of my family and workplace when it comes to making it down to Melbourne in time for games. I work full-time as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist at the Bendigo Hospital. It is a rewarding job but one where no two days are the same as a lot of my patients are from oncology, and you are seeing the best and worst in people. 

I have to be disciplined enough to leave everything work-related at the door when I leave for the day otherwise thinking about it takes away my focus from umpiring and normal life. I like to keep work, netball and life separate. I also learned to listen to my body and know that it was okay to take a break every now and then to recharge. Any opportunity to take a break would be doing something that I love with family and friends. 

I never could have imagined the amount of time and effort that goes into being at the elite level. I was naïve in thinking it was purely all based on game performance however it is so much more then that. 

A lot of your workload is done away from the netball court with regards to maintaining our fitness, recovery, nutrition, reviewing our games and setting goals to achieve. It was overwhelming in the beginning but now it has become second nature. 

Umpiring local netball exposes to you to a variety of netball levels. So many great players have come from regional backgrounds so to see them starting out on their journeys is a privilege. You also see them playing with and against people who play for the love of the sport. Sport has such a huge role in communities in developing young people, maintaining connections across all age groups and creating that sense of belonging. 

The biggest struggle I found being a regional umpire was the time spent travelling. In order to obtain my B Badge I had to travel from my hometown in Echuca to Bendigo to umpire in the Regional State League. My mum or grandmother would pick me up from school and we’d drive down with me getting changed in the car or doing homework. 

For a number of years prior to getting my breakthrough in the VNL I umpired the State Team tryouts and training sessions on Sunday mornings. It would only go for 2 hours and it would mean a 6am wake-up but the 5 hour round trip to Melbourne would be worth the opportunity to get more experience and improve my skills. The travelling became less when I started university in Melbourne but during the holidays there would be nights where I would be getting home to Echuca at 2am. 

Since moving to Bendigo I have been reintroduced to the long travel times but thankfully my usual arrival back home would be just after midnight. My parents were so supportive of my umpiring since day one that they would always be driving me to wherever I was umpiring. It wasn’t just me that was making the sacrifices. I could not have accepted the opportunities given to me without my parents’ support. 

My biggest tip for country umpires is to take every opportunity given to you, no matter how big or small, and step out of your comfort zone. Wherever you are in the country, there’s always a few netball leagues around. If you are part of one league, reach out to another league and umpire there every now and then. Get that exposure, particularly if it’s a league that has a good reputation for quality netball.