Netball: Umpires return after stroppy player row

By Anendra Singh

The Hawke's Bay umpires have decided to "move on" for the benefit of netball.

The whistle blowers have effectively agreed to disagree on certain issues that led to an impasse with the Eastern Netball Board a fortnight ago over matters pertaining to the disciplining of an abusive Physique premier player.

"We're moving on. The Eastern board and the umpires have agreed to differ," an umpire said last night, after eight New Zealand badge holders refused to officiate in the first round of play-offs in Napier two Wednesdays ago, prompting Eastern to send an SOS to a Manawatu umpire.

"We want bygones to be bygones and work for the betterment of netball to resolve any issues."

Last Wednesday night the protesting umpires turned up to the Hastings Pak'n Save Hawke's Bay Premier League semifinal and second division final at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.

However, the province's two most elite umpires, Fiona Horne, of Napier, and Philippa Castles, of Hastings, were allocated the second division semifinal and Dion Thomas and Kelly Ives to the second-life premier semifinal between PlusRehab HHSOG Huias and Physique, which the former won 61-49.

Defending champions Speights Ale House Otane Force had a bye after a crushing 52-35 defeat of Havelock North Kauri on August 15 and are on track to retain their crown barring a massive upset.

Hawke's Bay Cook Islands were second division champions after beating Physique Phoenix 56-49 on Wednesday night.

Eastern board deputy chairman John Dransfield said last night all issues had been "satisfactorily resolved".

Dransfield said the board, after taking another day from their initial 24-hour deadline to find a solution to the dispute, had introduced an upgraded player code of conduct, based on clauses that the Hastings and Gisborne centres were enforcing successfully.

Effectively, it stipulates a "zero tolerance" to ill-mannered behaviour.

"It not only applies to players but to anyone," Dransfield said, referring to umpires, team management and even board members.

The protesting umpires had declined to control the premier Physique team's matches, claiming the offending player was abusive throughout the season and the board had asked them in June to "deal with it" on the court after an attempt to mediate off court with the player didn't stop the behaviour.

They were happy with the disciplinary committee meting out a match suspension to the player and warning a member of the Physique management for abusing the third official, who had instructed the player to sit in a chair between the two teams.

The board had reprimanded the third official and, according to the umpires, failed to inform them the player was suspended. She ended up sitting on her team bench but umpires claim a suspended player loses that right among "privileges".

Dransfield said it was a "grey area" and they had approached Netball New Zealand for a "satisfactory conclusion".

Meanwhile Hastings and Napier centres will merge with Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa under a New Zealand Netball vision to have regions playing under their ANZ Championship franchise umbrellas from later this year. That means Eastern Netball will become defunct and Gisborne and East Coast will no longer be part of this region's catchment area from November.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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