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Making the Super League: Farrah Jaura’s NSL journey as an Umpire and returning to top flight netball as a new mother

Taken during the Netball Super League game between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at the Belle Vue Arena, Manchester, England on 3rd March 2023.

Multiple injuries brought an end to her playing career, but Farrah Jaura’s mind was set on staying in the game she loves.

After finally deciding to retire from playing, she made the decision to focus on her umpiring with the encouragement of a mentor.

The rest, as they say, is history and she has been part of the Netball Super League umpiring team for the last three years.

“I never wanted to be an umpire,” says Farrah. “It was never obvious to me but I wanted to stay in the game and it was a natural progression.

“Even when I finish umpiring I’ll be thinking ahead – how will I stay in the game? What will my contribution be moving forward?” On the face of it, umpiring is as individual a role as they come, but Farrah feels it has become more collaborative than ever across the international netball community.

“As an umpire, you’re very much alone but you’re very much a team,” she insists. “There are two of you on court and you need that rapport with your co-umpire.

“You want to be in tune with one another and keep that equality on the court and that same standard.

“It’s the work you do off the court as well. We have buddies and mentors we work with and discuss things confidently about how we feel our matches have gone.

“We can do that without feeling uncomfortable because we all doubt ourselves at times. Having reassurance and support from umpires you respect is so important.”

Farrah has already seen a huge amount of change in her three short years working in the top flight of English netball.

The league’s increased broadcast exposure has raised the visibility of umpiring and she feels the Covid-19 pandemic marked a sea-change in how umpiring is perceived. With the league’s rising reach, Farrah has noticed an increasing level of scrutiny on the decisions of umpires on social media.

“It’s very easy to be the umpire on the sidelines or behind the screen on social media” she says. “That’s come in over the past few years and I’d say Covid changed that.

“Social media makes some people feel like they can feed back on what they weren’t happy with, without being held to account.

“It wasn’t as visible before. You might have got the odd comment but now I know other umpires who’ve been on the receiving end of those comments on social media.

“You have to learn to adapt to that, build up resilience in terms of what you’re willing to accept and how you’re going to respond.

“I’ve learned that less is more. You have to try to keep your composure and give the players on that court the best opportunity to compete for every ball and ultimately win the game.”

Farrah has returned to the court this year having become a mum and has been on a journey as an older, first-time mother making the transition back into umpiring.

“Once I’d had the baby, I could not see a way of coming back,” she admits. “You’ve got a different body. It was a shock to the system.

“I had to find my own way and I just wanted to give myself the opportunity to get back doing what I love doing.

“The support from England Netball has been incredible, completely inclusive. They’ve assessed me the same way as any umpire and given me opportunities and that’s all I wanted.”

As one of few Muslim umpires operating at the elite level, Farrah feels that she has been welcomed with open arms by the sport.

“I don’t feel I’ve been hindered in any way,” she reflects, “I know that’s not the case for everybody.

“One of the differences I feel is that I don’t look Muslim. There’s often perceptions about what a Muslim looks like – that’s related to skin colour and headscarves – I don’t fit those.

“I’ve been grouped into the majority but I’d like to think that it’s about what you offer in terms of skill level that should rise above anything.

“But I can honestly say I’ve only ever felt supported in my journey in elite umpiring and the support of family and friends has made a massive difference.”

 

The Netball Super League’s spotlight series Strong Women Supporting Strong Women: Making the Super League will continue throughout March to celebrate some of the women behind the scenes of the league, who are driving netball forward boldly, unapologetically and fearlessly.

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