Netball Central’s production line of top-quality whistle blowers continues to flourish with eight of the 14 selected in the 2020 National Umpire Squad coming from the Zone, including newcomer Marly (Marlissa) Howard.

First picking up a whistle at 11 years of age, Howard, who turns 24 next week, had no great early aspirations to make it a career but over time, it took hold, she found her niche and now umpiring has become a lifestyle.

``I turned to umpiring once I worked out that I wasn’t actually that good at playing,’’ she said. ``So, I was first a player, then umpiring came in and it just became a place and a hobby that I really enjoyed.

``It had really good support systems around it, there were people there that I liked seeing every week and it has become a part of my life in that sense that it has just grown on me.’’

From modest beginnings, Howard has worked her way through the Netball Wellington grades and continued to evolve while rebounding from the odd hiccup along the way.

``There were lots of times where I didn’t think I would get to where I am now,’’ she said. ``A lot of people will say in their umpiring careers there’s a point where you just kind of plateau for a couple seasons and it’s really sometimes quite hard to get out of that part.

``Then, it’s remembering to trust the system and look at things a bit differently, so it has been a long journey but a really rewarding one.

``I know there’s a lot of people that want to be in this position, so I’m really grateful that I have been given the opportunity.

``I’m just really excited to put the hard work in over the season and just be exposed to all these new experiences that the national squad will present to me.’’

Howard’s new status means her main role in the coming weeks will be umpiring in the Beko Netball League during the 2020 season, learning all the time as she continues to press her claims.

With a strong backdrop of umpiring intelligence at her disposal, Howard is grateful for the support and camaraderie she has received from varying personnel in the Zone.

``Over the last couple of years, we’ve built a really strong culture,’’ she said.

``All our Centres have been able to share the resources and with the likes of Ann Hay and Gareth Fowler, who are in the national squad and who are really great coaches, we’ve really been able to capitalise on the fact we have those people here in our Zone, can use them and try to develop our younger umpires and up-and-coming coaches.

``I’ve had really amazing coaching and we’re really lucky here in Wellington that we do have such a high-quality coaching system.’’

Howard graduated from university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in May and now works fulltime for a design company in Wellington, who are very understanding when it comes to her umpiring duties.

Along with the eight selected for the national squad, Kirsten Lloyd adds a strong Netball Central presence in the umpiring ranks in her role as a national selector.

Central Zone umpires named in the 2020 National Umpire Squad: 

Angela Armstrong-Lush
Josh Bowring
Gracey Farquharson
Gareth Fowler
Ann Hay
Marly (Marlissa) Howard
Jess Lea
Ken Metekingi