in action.Whangarei's Melanie Sowter knows she has reached the big time when she takes charge of her first international hockey match on Monday night in Napier.
She is part of the three-umpire group which will officiate as the Black Sticks take on the United States in a five-match series next week.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet, but I think it will sink in when I hit Wellington on Friday night," Sowter said.
She is already beginning to feel nervous about the series but is fortunate that she'll probably be a spectator in the first match.
"I'm lucky I'm not umpiring in the first test, I'm only the reserve, so unless someone gets injured I'll get a chance to get a feel for the teams and the game they play," she said.
An international role is something only the elite of umpires get to experience and there is a chance that in time, she will go on to adjudicate in other international events - perhaps even at the Olympic Games.
"To get to the Olympics would be my ultimate goal," she said.
Sowter knew she was in the running for international duty when she was given the opportunity to be the reserve umpire for last year's women's national league final.
"There's no actual ranking system but being reserve for the national finals kind of indicates that I'm around third (in the country)."
The country's two top women umpires are Sarah Garnett and Lyn Farrell, and they are nearing the end of their international careers which is enforced by an upper age limit of 45.
Northland regional development umpiring officer Tracey Wrigley rounds out the current crop of international umpires.
Another up-and-coming referee, Kelly Hudson, will join Sowter as one of the umpires on the USA tour.
Sowter has been playing hockey since she was a child and then influenced by her father, started umpiring when she was 16.
"My dad was an umpire and he kind of inspired me to get into it ... I also wanted to give something back to the sport, and I've found I enjoy it as well," she said.
She was also injured a fair bit playing the game and decided that as a player she had hit her ceiling.
She still loves to play however and currently plays for Maungakaramea in the Northland premier competition and said still playing has benefits for her umpiring.
"To carry on as a player as well as umpiring you get a better understanding of the game's rules, a greater depth and understanding of the game and you can read the play a lot easier," she said.
She wants to help improve the standard of umpiring in Northland and when she goes away to tournaments and receives training she makes a point of bringing that back to Northland.
"We (the referees) have monthly meetings and I always put forward anything that I've been taught, to try and lift the standard," she said.