How Natalie Pearce became my favourite match official
IF ONLY all sports took spectator's code of conduct as seriously as netball.
Saturday's Hervey Bay Netball grand final were some of the most pleasantly loud games I have witnessed.
The abuse from the crowd was minimal, as most simply cheered (very loudly) for their friends, family and clubmates in their games.
But there was one incident during a junior grand final that simultaneously stood out, and made umpire Natalie Pearce one of my favourite officials in the region.
Despite a clear code of conduct that states spectators must raise issues through appropriate channels "rather than question their judgment and honesty in public", one spectator had a few critical words for Pearce.
Pearce controlled the situation like a pro.
She offered a first warning, they answered, she offered a second warning (which included a request to keep silent for the quarter), they answered, and she sent the spectator on the third.
The way Pearce, who later said she simply doesn't take any s***, handled the situation is a blueprint for every other sport.
The situation was handled within 30 seconds.
While spectators at AFL Wide Bay, Wide Bay League, Bundaberg Rugby League, and other grand finals I attended were on their best behaviour this weekend, there have been incidents in the past where the crowd have been a blight on their games.
Unsavoury comments, chants, confrontations - they are passed off as "supporting their team" but it doesn't make any game more exciting to attend.
There will always be one or two people who want to carry on, but this year's local deciders were unblemished.
To Nattie, massive props - you showed every junior referee and player how officials don't need to put up with unsavoury crowd comments.
To the netball community, congratulations on an epic grand final day.