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We caught up with South Africa’s FAST5 umpires, Anso Kemp and Leonard Masao, who recently officiated at the FAST5 Netball World Series in Christchurch. Anso umpired the women’s final between Australia and New Zealand, and Leonard handled the men’s final played between New Zealand and Australia. Currently, Leonard is also in Gaborone umpiring at the 2023 Africa Netball Cup.

Anso & Leonard, thanks for your time, tell us about your whole FAST5 experience?

Travel to New Zealand feels like forever. Going there all my flights were delayed and Qantas booked me in a hotel for three hours, but at least I could sleep horizontal for two hours [laughing]. Apart from Leonard and two other umpires, the rest were all new to me. It was great to meet and make new umpire friends from all around the world. Apart from umpiring the finals which was for sure the highlight I have to congratulate our team of umpires and UAPs with our very special dance we did! Loved every second of it!

Leonard: Christchurch is beautiful and it was clear people love netball there. They came dressed up for the two days. It was great to see. We met some old faces we know from other tournaments and new faces which ended as new friends.

How does umpiring FAST5 compare to umpiring traditional seven-a-side netball?

Any challenges?
The rules that we had to adapt to and implement immediately. We had to do a dance as a group and some of us have two left legs.

The rewards? 

Anso: When the shooters score from the three-point zone during power play and cheers of the crowd! Makes me want to do cart wheels [laughing].


Leonard: It’s a fun tournament.


Anso: The different shooting zones, the “use it” rule and the lead and trail umpire. When you are the lead umpire once the centre pass has been taken you actually only have to focus on what happens in your own goal third. You trust your co-umpire even more to be overseeing any infringements occurring in the centre third, while you, as lead umpire are on the goal line. In “normal” netball we play more advantage on the goal circle edge, but in FAST5 you penalise immediately to give an advantage to the shooters to make the decision to take a three or two point shot.


Leonard: Five players on court. Three areas of shooting in the goal area. With a penalty in the goal third, a shooter may choose to shoot it especially when it’s the end of the quarter’s play. The umpire’s timing and positioning is different from traditional netball.

Do you need to be fitter?

Anso: Not necessarily fitter, but the use of continuous speed is required for those long bombs going in from the centre third into the goal circle.

As umpires we are expected to be fit in all formats with a fitness test to pass.

Does your decision-making also have to be faster?

Anso: To me it is the same – split second calls are to be made no matter what type of netball is played.

Yes, but there is more team work between the umpires on court and that makes the job easier.

On player interactions, in the faster-paced game, how do you handle player reactions or disagreements with decisions?

Anso: Even the players are in a different mindset – they know there is not really time to question decisions.

Unfortunately the best time was always at the end of the match for teams to seek clarity because there is simply no time during the match.

Were there any rule changes or nuances specific to FAST5 that required additional preparation or adaptation?

Anso: We invested quite a lot of time in the training matches and had many discussions around the “Use It” rule.  We had to make sure that players and coaches knew exactly how it will be implemented and used during the tournament.

Fortunately enough we had a lot of practice matches to practice and adapt to the rules. One: Use It. Two: Training and Lead Umpire These two were the major ones with “Use It” having a lot of technicalities around it.

With the shorter quarters and power plays, how do you manage the technical aspects of timekeeping and scoring as an umpire?

Anso: Fortunately timekeeping and scoring is the work for the well trained and knowledgeable technical table team.

All we have to do is monitor the scores, say them out loud as well, we were wearing mics so scorers could hear us when saying the goal scored. For example, one, two or three and they knew how to manage that during powerplays.

Anso, you last umpired at the FAST5 NWS in 2012 and 2018.

How did the experiences then compare to the 2023 FAST5 NWS in Christchurch?
Back in 2012 I was only an ITID thus being the new kid on the block. I was in awe of the IUA umpires and meeting all the UAPs. It was a new world opening up to me which I was looking forward to finding out how it might unfold. In 2018 it was different due to the rules that had changed from 2012, but still then I was a “new” IUA and looking up to my peers. The comradery amongst the umpires is an amazing experience. This year I could feel the experience had kicked in.

Standard of umpiring?

We are a team that work together to continuously strives to let the player showcase their skills and umpire according to the rules.

And the vibe?

Every tournament has its own stress factors, but I must admit that FAST5 is totally different.  Definitely not complacent, because we as umpires still get scored according to performance on every match. Rules are still rules and we have to umpire according to them.  But yes, the vibe is insane and the adrenaline rush it gives you on top of the nerves are adding to the “difference” FAST5 ads to netball.

Leonard, this was your first time umpiring at the FAST5 NWS, is this one of your top career highlights? How does it compare to other top events you have umpired?

All matches and tournaments I never take for granted, I’m always grateful for the opportunity. The only difference was that, it was my first time being assessed by New Zealand Assessors which was good for my development. It’s one of the tournaments I will always remember, I think we did very well after umpiring the men’s final and Anso on the women’s final. It’s all hard work. It’s not that simple. The venue was fully seated on the final day, we do have events that are fully seated in SA but not to the Christchurch capacity.


On team dynamics, how do you maintain focus and coordination as a team of umpires during a FAST5 match?

Anso: As the question states, we are a TEAM and we work together as a team no matter what. The support for one another and from the UAP are visible.


Leonard: There is a lead and a trail umpire in the match where the roles changes depending on where the ball is going. That makes the team work easier for umpires.

What’s your perspective on the interaction between the crowd and umpires in the FAST5 format compared to traditional netball?

Anso: With the fun constantly in the crowd you will see that umpires are a ”little” bit more relaxed and might also be doing some dancing [laughing].


Leonard: I think that depends on each country but FAST5 is fun and people dressed up and there was competitions throughout to identify best dressed groups.  It also looked like there was a pink colour theme. Traditional netball is more formal, people want to watch and concentrate on the game.

How has officiating at the FAST5 Netball World Series contributed to your growth and development as an umpire?

Anso: Every tournament I get the opportunity to officiate, is a blessing and never taken for granted. Each tournament maybe “named differently” but the hours of training, preparations, mental fitness, it all stays the same. There are and will always be curve balls. This tournament, with its somewhat different rules gave me the opportunity to learn how to adapt to changes even quicker. Every match differs and strategies on court changes so quickly. You HAVE to be ready at all times.

Leonard: A lot, it will be another demanding change to transition to traditional netball again. But the techniques of umpiring are always the same, positioning, timing and vision. The rules as an umpire we are expected to master, having four Assessors who worked with us from practice matches until the main event has contributed in my growth and once the rules of FAST5 are revised it will be worth sharing with everyone.

Thank you Anso and Leonard. All the best for the rest of the Africa Netball Cup, Leonard. Anso, looking forward to seeing on you back on court again soon.