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Volunteers work recognised by Netball New Zealand

Netball New Zealand has celebrated the commitment and service of four recipients from the netballing community who continuously give back to the game.

The annual NNZ Community Netball Volunteer Awards recognise excellence at grassroots level applauding the efforts from coaches, officials, administrators and youth.

Sandy Phear (Official), Linda Liggins (Administrator), Kuini O’Connor-Thompson (Coach) and Ella Higgins (Youth) were stand-outs in respective categories and were flown to the sold out Constellation Cup Test between the Silver Ferns and Australian Diamonds in Wellington on October 18 to receive their awards.

Taranaki’s Sandy Phear was named Official of the Year for the time she volunteers in the Central Zone, working largely with umpires.

She is a national level umpire coach/assessor for the Zone and travels twice a week to satellites to support and coach umpires.

Phear, who is a member of the Lower North Island Secondary Schools umpiring panel and a service award holder, attends tournaments across the Zone and is a regular face at courts on a Saturday to act as a mentor.

Her level of commitment to the game and willingness to continue her own personal growth and development have made Phear a valued member in the Zone.

The Central Zone was also home to the Administrator of the Year with Manawatu’s Linda Liggins’ contribution to umpire development recognised.

The Manawatu Centre life member is well known for the time she dedicates to the umpiring community and the administration support she provides between the Centre and Central Zone.

Liggins, who is also a member of the New Zealand Umpire Development Group, has been a driving force in delivering workshops and events including umpire coach assessor trainings, secondary school regional championships and Zone tournaments.

Both the Central Zone and Manawatu Centre wanted to recognise Higgins’ reliability in her role and the knowledge and care she provides to umpires of all ages which has made a difference.

Meanwhile, the impact that Hamilton’s Kuini O’Connor-Thompson has on her players saw her named Coach of the Year.

O’Connor-Thompson has been influential with her coaching role at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls where she guided the senior development team which won the premier reserve competition at Hamilton City for the second straight year.

She has gained a number of qualifications including the CCA1 for coaching, New Zealand umpiring theory, Zone practical for umpiring and is also training to become a coach developer.

But it was O’Connor-Thompson’s work with individuals to grow a positive team culture, nurture player development and ensure a strong working relationship with in her teams which saw her stand out in a tough category.

Teenager Ella Higgins’ contribution to the Waikato-BOP Zone and dedication to umpiring saw her presented with the Volunteer Youth award.

The Cambridge Netball Centre member was appointed to umpire at this year’s National Under-17 Championships at just 16 years old and already holds her New Zealand C award.

Her commitment to increasing fitness and strength, and her willingness to contribute in many areas of the game, has seen Higgins used as a role model within her Centre as a demonstration of what umpires can achieve.

2018 Netball New Zealand Volunteer Awards

Coach: Kuini O’Connor-Thompson, Hamilton City/Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, Waikato-BOP Zone

Official: Sandy Phear, Taranaki Centre, Central Zone

Administrator: Linda Liggins, Manawatu Centre, Central Zone

Youth: Ella Higgins, Cambridge Netball Centre, Waikato-BOP Zone