NFNL umpire Jamie Shannon will represent Australia at the Men’s and Mixed Netball Championships in New Zealand following a successful campaign as a member of the Victorian Men’s under 17’s side that were recently crowned national champions.
In the lead up to the tournament, fellow NFNL umpire Ariane Virgona spoke with the 17-year-old as he reflected on his journey to netball, the benefits of umpiring and playing netball, as well as his selection in both the Australian and Victorian Men’s under 17’s teams.
For Jamie Shannon, netball means family, and with the passion for the sport being passed down through four generations, he found himself playing netball at just five years of age.
From humble beginnings at the Diamond Valley netball courts, Shannon fondly reflected upon his time at Netta (the feeder pathway into netball for young people, which is now Net Set Go), and the guidance of his first coach.
“I remember doing Netta there with Lyn Smith. I still know her through my domestic competition at Darebin and she has been a great mentor to me as a player and as an umpire,” he said.
The inclusivity of netball is also another element that Shannon enjoys.
“I found the netball community to be very welcoming and it appealed to me a lot more. It also allowed me to stay with the sport as long as I have so far,” he said.
“There are so many options for mixed level competitions when I was growing up and even more today. It is very encouraging for girls and boys to play together, and the sport keeps creating pathways for boys.”
Shannon strongly encouraged boys to try the sport out, saying it will not only help boys learn more about netball, but it will also encourage social connection and physical activity.
“You have the knowledge of what the sport’s like only once you have tried it. You have a shot, you go on the court, you tried some new positions with people who you know as well as with a good community of people. It makes playing great fun,” he said.
“Even if you want to just do it for some exercise, it is great to give it a try and make some friends and experiment with it. Especially getting into a mixed comp, you are in there with other girls and boys, all the coaches, spectators and umpires who are all there to have a good time too.”
In April this year, Shannon represented Victoria at the U17s men’s AMMNA (Australian Men’s and Mixed Netball Association) National competition in Adelaide, going undefeated throughout the tournament before defeating South Australia in the grand final.
Shannon was then selected to play for Australia’s Under 17’s side for the upcoming championships in August.
With the years of practice on the Diamond Valley netball courts behind him, Shannon assumes the goal shooter position for both squads.
“I am mainly a goal shooter. In the domestic and representative competitions, I play a lot more goal attack but for Victorian team I play shooter. I can also swing out to the wings if needed too,” he said.
“I have always been a shooter, one of my sisters is a shooter and I learned from her. She helped me to develop a proper technique and she has been my biggest mentor.”
Accompanying Shannon’s training and match play is umpiring, usually down at La Trobe Stadium on a Friday night in the NFNL winter netball competition.
Shannon has been umpiring for four years and has been heavily influenced by his mother and sisters’ involvement in umpiring at an early age. He finds umpiring a way to engage with the sport in a fresh way.
“I enjoy the different environment to the sport, rather than being a spectator or a player you are watching the game. You can learn about the essence of the game, you’re in control of the game, and your knowledge of the game is more credited,” he said.
“It’s a good way to channel passion and learn more about the sport.”
Umpiring at the NFNL exposes Shannon to a range of game competitiveness, which helps him build his fitness and deepen his understanding of the strategic nature of netball.
“The NFNL has great opportunities because there are so many competitions with such a range of games, like section 1 games being 60 minutes, rather than 40 minutes,” he said.
In addition to this, Shannon relishes the edge that umpiring gives him on the court as an athlete and as a member of a team, saying he gains a new perspective of the sport.
“The longer you umpire, the more you begin to understand how you can put your knowledge of the game into playing the game as well and being able to adjust the way that you play to an umpire is one of the biggest things that you get from umpiring,” he said.
“I think it’s a great benefit to be able to be in the game and think, ‘I understand exactly what’s going on here’. I understand where the umpire wants the ball, what they want, as well, being able to determine hand signals or hear what they say. It’s been beneficial for my game style.”
Shannon repeats his mantra of ‘just give it a try’ for men and boys wanting to be involved in netball from an umpiring perspective.
“Just give a try. I think it has so many benefits to your ability to play the sport that there’s no negative side to it. It’s difficult, but it’s a good challenge,” he said.
“It’s good for your fitness., it’s good for your game, it’s good for even just getting some pocket money.”
Marrying his umpiring and playing together, Shannon hopes to send a positive message to boys and men about netball, alongside the increased promotion of men’s participation that associations like the AMMNA are investing in.
“As a male umpire and person in the sport, I think it [increased promotion] has a good effect on people. It shows that it’s not just women that can umpire, there’s men out there that are ready to give a try and ready to show that they can play the sport and love the sport as much as other people do,” he said.
“There are so many facilities and so many people that are encouraging not just women, not just men, but to mixed teams. As AMMNA try and push men’s and mixed netball further, it is going to change what netball looks like for Australia.
“I encourage all young guys or even people who are in their teens or early 20s to give it a try and have a look, even for a social competition.”
The NFNL wishes Jamie the best of luck ahead of this year’s championships. If you’re interested in becoming an umpire in the NFNL or want to learn more about the role, contact Delwyn Berry email@example.com