When Tauranga's Kelly Hudson - one of New Zealand's top hockey umpires - was officiating at this week's Ford NHL tournament she had goosebumps.
Hudson officiated the women's tournament at Tauranga Hockey Centre and says returning to refereeing where it all began is special.
"It has been awesome, my parents have been able to come down and watch. My first tournament as an umpire was here when we just had a sand turf and grass fields, so to come back here for the NHL at home has been amazing. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it," Hudson says.
Hudson has refereed 135 senior international tests, has 60 games as a video umpire and next year will officiate in her third Olympic Games. Like most umpires, Hudson started as a player where she represented Tauranga Intermediate School. Her secondary education at Waikato Diocesan launched her into umpiring as it was a requirement for first XI players.
"One of the big things about committing to umpiring was it would give me a different perspective and make me a better player," Hudson says.
She earned her international badge in 2005 but it would be some time before she broke through.
"It took a little while for me to get any kind of ascendancy and then I umpired at the Junior World Cup in 2009. You are learning so much when you first make that step, just like a player when they step into that international space."
Despite her vast experience and time dedicated to umpiring, Hudson's desire has not waned.
"I am still really enjoying umpiring and every game is different. I will keep going as long as I am enjoying it."
"It is always a real privilege and being appointed to something like the Olympics is a reflection of hard work and consistency. It is more than just what you do on the field. It is being a team player and enjoying every experience you have on and off the field."
The sport has evolved with many rule changes in the past decade, most of which have sped up what was already a rapid game.
"That is one of the things that has really kept me motivated and into the game – that challenge of adapting to change and really embracing the new things that come along.
"The challenge for anyone who wants to be the best they can be is that continually learning. Most of the rule changes are to make our game more of a spectacle or to make it safer."
Hudson is also the officiating development officer in a part-time role for Tauranga hockey.
"Through that role, I have been able to give back and produce resource and feedback to our umpires here. I have really enjoyed that."
Technical official for the NHL tournament, Tauranga's Gill Gemming, says umpires have a tough job.
"They are really high-level umpires and the scenarios and situations that occur can be different. It has become quite a very fast skilful game, and a very aerial game. The rule changes have been really exciting for development. It has been also about not penalising skill.
"Umpires now have to be extremely fit and the top umpires are now on high-performance fitness programmes to enable them to keep up with the players."
After a rest day yesterday, the tournament resumes today with the final games of the second phase ahead of the classification games tomorrow.
Neither of the Midlands teams can make the top four after finishing outside the top places in the first phase of the tournament.
The Midlands women's team continued the momentum from belting Southern on Wednesday to beat Auckland 5-0 on Thursday. Gemma McCaw scored four goals while captain Sam Charlton added the other. Midlands play Capital this morning.
The top half of the competition is tight but North Harbour are unbeaten in the second half of the tournament.
The Midlands men's team picked up their first win of the tournament on Wednesday night, beating Tasmania 3-2, before falling 4-3 to Central on Thursday. The men play Southern in their final pool game today. Auckland are the favourites to claim the men's title having won their two games since the teams split.
Midlands Ford NHL fixtures for Saturday, September 21:
Midlands women v Capital, 8am, Tauranga Hockey Centre.
Midlands men v Southern, 8.15am, Tauranga Hockey Centre.