An exciting new Umpire emerges in the Manawatu

Andrew Bell is what you imagine to be a typical Palmy Boy.

An unassuming 33 year old living in an unassuming city (Palmerston North has never been a Lonely Planet favourite) working a deliberately unassuming day job (after spending 10 years as a baker working stupidly unsociable hours).

He’s a single co-parenting dad with two beautiful kids, a son (5) and a daughter (13) who are supposedly anything but unassuming …as a doting parent’s summation should be!

And until three years ago, Andrew had never played bowls.  In the winter he had played ‘the beautiful game’, football, for 29 years of his life. And was playing softball in the summer until he changed over to what we all know is a more beautiful game … bowls!

His dad had played bowls out of the Manawatu, but Andrew didn’t venture into the sport until 2021 when he joined the Hokowhitu Bowling Club in Palmerston North.  These days he is a dual member of Takaro as well.

“I wanted to get some coaching from the best of the best,” laughs Andrew.  “So I looked for help from Sharon Sims.”

Sharon’s magic must have worked well, because three years later Andrew has 9 club championships under his belt, including a couple of pairs championships playing with his dad.  “No centre championship yet .. just a loss in the finals in the 1-5 Centre Championships this last season.”

Whilst Andrew’s on the up as a player, he’s also on the up as an umpire.  In fact more uppish.

Towards the end of the year, he became an Accredited Bowls Umpire, and is currently Manawatu’s only active accredited umpire.  So distracted has he become with umpiring that he did a whopping 320 hours of umpiring in this last season just gone. That’s 40 days out on the green!

“His passion and commitment is exceptional,” says Michael Johnson, Chair of the National Umpires Committee.  “He’s energetic and positive … and personable and approachable.  And because he’s grabbed the skills of umpiring so quickly, he enthusiastically put himself forward for many umpiring roles last year which not only included Centre events, but as an umpire at the National Intercentre in Wellington as well and at the end of this month will be back down to Wellington for three days to help umpire the National under 26s 5 a side.

Andrew has an explanation for that enthusiasm.

“I put a lot of that down to Sue Way (one of New Zealand’s ITO’s),” says Andrew.  “She’s been a mentor to me, and inspired me to work to become an ITO at a future Commonwealth Games … just as she has done.”

There’s little reason why that can’t happen … or won’t happen.  Andrew has age on his side.  At 33, he’s still got another 40+ years of bowls and umpiring if he wants it.  That’s 10 Commonwealth Games worth.

And even if the Comm Games disappear into the history of ‘the empire’, there’ll be plenty of other internationals in the future demanding quality ITOs ... including from the far reaches of the planet in Palmy.

“I’m only a Level 1 umpire at the moment,” Andrew reminds us. “And I’m thinking about my Level 2 but I want to be sure I’m ready to go for it.”  So there’s a heck of a long way to go to get anywhere near being an ITO (Level 3).”

However, Michael has the confidence that he can go all the way.

“Andrew has the necessary motivation to become an ITO,” says Michael.  “And I know he will absolutely get there if the past year is anything to go by.”

Watch this space!