Young farmer makes mark as netball umpire

Teenage farmer Leo McGrath making a mark as Hampden league netball umpire

Dairy
JUGGLING ACT: Teenager Leo McGrath works on his family's dairy farm at Orford and umpires Hampden netball league open matches. He is passionate about the sport. Picture: Anthony Brady

JUGGLING ACT: Teenager Leo McGrath works on his family's dairy farm at Orford and umpires Hampden netball league open matches. He is passionate about the sport. Picture: Anthony Brady

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Leo McGrath knew he wanted to remain involved in netball when he had to stop playing in his early teens.

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Leo McGrath knew he wanted to remain involved in netball when he had to stop playing in his early teens.

The Orford, Vic, dairy farmer identified umpiring as the ideal way to stay connected to the sport he loved.

He grabbed a whistle and is striving to earn his B-Badge and climb up the umpiring ranks.

McGrath, 17, is now officiating Hampden league open netball matches.

"I love the social side, I am a very social person. It keeps me fit as well. It's my sport and mum (Anne) will come and watch me sometimes and go 'Leo, I didn't know you could run'," he laughed.

"I don't do that much other physical activity so it's really healthy for me.

"I just really love it. I play mixed netball now but I much, much rather umpire.

"You get a really good rapport with the players, especially umpiring a lot of open games this year.

"You get to know the girls really well and they know you, it's just really fun."

McGrath first played netball at Mininera and District club Hawkesdale-Macarthur.

"As a male you can't play in the league when you turn 14. It was my last year of playing netball when I decided to take up umpiring," he told The Standard while working on his family's farm.

"I have always loved netball. I don't miss many games of the Suncorp (Super) Netball league.

"I'd love to one day to go and umpire that, it's obviously the end goal.

"It is a massive commitment to go up there and do that - I'd have to be very nice to my sisters (Rachael and Maureen) to be away from the farm that much."

READ MORE: Football, netball and milking cows - teenager's weekly routine

Port Fairy and Koroit matches in 2021 have often included McGrath as umpire.

He said he was grateful to improve his skills and have mentors, such as Joy Errey and Stacey Dwyer, to ask for advice.

"At the start of the season I said to mum 'I can't believe it, who would have thought a couple of years ago that I'd be umpiring my first open match?'," McGrath said.

"The development in my umpiring, with all the different feedback I get, (is beneficial).

"I really value it and if they are telling me I am doing something wrong, say they tell it to me by half-time I try and fix it by the end of the game."

McGrath has jumped at the chance to umpire in different settings too.

"The Hampden league have been very good with opportunities," he said.

"I have been to (Netball Victoria) association championships twice now including the ones just gone (earlier this month).

"Me and Rachael Dickson were lucky to get a semi-final and grand final there.

"It is a pathway for players but it's also a pathway for umpires as well."

Off the court life is busy for McGrath too.

The former Emmanuel College student completed six weeks of year 12 earlier this year before deciding he wanted to work on the land with parents Anne and Eddie and sisters Rachael and Maureen.

It became evident to him in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, that farming was something he would like to do.

It was a surprise as he'd originally floated the idea of nursing. He decided to leave school after the state was plunged into a snap lockdown earlier this year.

"Our goal for our herd is to become the number one jersey herd in Australia which is doable," McGrath said.

"It is something we can really work towards. Me and Rachael are so young and we have time on our hands to do it. It takes a long time to breed good cows."

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The story Young farmer makes mark as netball umpire first appeared on The Standard.

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