Fort Hare player-coach Gabriel Simion’s career path continued on its upward trajectory after being appointed as an umpire for the Telkom Netball League recently.
It is the highest level of competition for domestic teams in South Africa and the first matches were played in Polokwane from April 27 to May 1. It continues in June and concludes with the finals in Pretoria in early July.
Simion, head coach of the men’s team at the university’s East London campus, has been officiating at this level since 2019 but is nonetheless proud of his election to the national umpires’ panel for another year.
“To officiate in the TNL is a real honour,” said the 36-year-old, who believed the competition honed his skills and helped him learn more about game management.
He added that he was thrilled to have the opportunity to run the rule over the TNL games in Polokwane.
“It was another very competitive weekend of netball because you are dealing with the top provincial teams.
“I worked so hard to do well and getting good feedback from the umpiring assessors was a big positive, which means I’m still on the right track.”
Interacting with national players over the course of the tournament also helped him grow as an official, he said.
Simion, who started out as a player before turning his attention to coaching and officiating, grew up in Limpopo but now lives in East London.
“I played from 2006 when they introduced men’s netball at a national level. Even though I now mainly coach and umpire, I still turn out for the Fort Hare team.”
He grew to love the sport and started coaching in 2008 when he became involved with several high schools in Limpopo.
Then, in 2012, he began coaching at North-West University before relocating to the Eastern Cape in 2016. He took up the coaching position at Fort Hare in 2017.
Simion was adamant that his umpiring credentials added value to his coaching.
“You could say I’m two in one as a coach because as a player you need to understand the rules of the sport.
“I bring my umpiring knowledge to my role as a coach and therefore I can develop my players according to the rules. I feel this is an advantage for them.”