Sue Way: Bowls New Zealand Umpire of the Year


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Bowls New Zealand 2019/20 Umpire of the Year, Sue Way.

Sue Way is IT Services Director at Wellington Girls’ College. That means a number of things.

It means that while many in the bowling community roll their eyes when it comes to talking hard tech stuff, Sue can comfortably sashay between Explorer, Chrome and Safari. Or Netflix, Neon and Freeview.

Each morning, 1500 tech-savvy kids and 120 not-so-tech-savvy teachers descend on the school, and crank up their laptops, their tablets and their smartphones … expecting their devices to seamlessly connect to the school’s wireless network … and to operate faster than the Flash’s adventures in a Marvel Comic.

Sue’s job is to meet that expectation. She’s Johnny-on-the-spot. She’s the magician that Spark needed to stream the World Cup and keep everyone happy!

In short, she’s Super-Sue.

Outside school hours, Sue transforms to a mild-mannered bowler. And a mild-mannered bowls umpire. And Bowls New Zealand’s mild-mannered newly awarded Umpire of the Year.

Sue grew up on a farm at Apiti, north of Feilding in the Manawatu. Her dad was a bowler. In fact he was a founding member of the nearby Kimbolton Bowling Club and helped lay the green.

When Sue married, she and her husband eventually settled in Bulls where she took up bowls. Three years later she joined the Northern Bowling Club in Palmerston North to get more competition. “I was very lucky to have the likes of Sharon Sims, Phil Skoglund Snr and Barry Gush as mentors,” she recalls. “And it was there where many of the older members encouraged me to get in to umpiring.”

With the encouragement and friendship of Bowls New Zealand’s Helen Stallard, Sue quickly found herself an umpire in demand – moving from club umpiring, to centre, to zone, to national and eventually international umpiring.

Sue Way was recently named Umpire of the Year reflecting her tireless efforts officiating the sport.

Meantime work had taken her to Wellington, and the family settled in Upper Hutt where she became a member of the Hutt Bowling Club. Sue found herself umpiring more and more, and because of her full-time job commitment, playing the game less and less.

“I loved umpiring,” she says, “so missing out on green time as a player wasn’t a sacrifice.”

Her big break came when she was selected to umpire for the World Champion of Champions Singles in Christchurch in 2013/2014. She went on to umpire again in Christchurch in 2015 at the Asia Pacific Championships.

“I was gutted to miss out on the Bowls World Championships in Christchurch in 2016,” she recalls. “Rejection like that creates a lot of potential self doubt.”

Sue needn’t have worried.

In 2018 she was back at the top level, umpiring at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. And recently she was appointed International Technical Officer for the 2019 Asia Pacific Championships which were also played on the Coast.

“I’ve just been appointed as an Umpire for the World Bowls Championship on the Gold Coast next year. I’m thrilled. I’m really looking forward to it.”

However, Sue didn’t just earn her Umpire of the Year Award for her elite level performances. Like many bowlers, she’s put in the hard yards behind the scenes. Sue is Vice-President of the Umpires’ Association. She’s on the board of the Bowl Wellington Centre and recently became Chair of the board. She’s helped with streamlining the umpire appointment process to maximize green time for umpires. And she’s helped Bowls Wellington with the digitising of results so players can see results as the Match Committee updates them.

It’s easy to imagine that we’re going to see a lot more contributions to the lawn bowls world from Sue.

Meanwhile, congratulations on being Bowls New Zealand’s 2019 Umpire of the Year, Sue.

We look forward to seeing you around the greens with paddles in hand, or simply enjoying a roll-up at your home club of Naenae.

by Rob Davis