Hill: ‘Never thought I'd meet the Queen’

Few have made the sacrifice, commitment and showed the passion for the game over the past 25 years as NZC Umpire Coach, Tony Hill.

Hill finished up at NZC after seven years developing and encouraging New Zealand’s next generation of umpires and match officials.

“The job is really about learning how to conduct yourself, work professionally with other umpires and how to communicate with bowlers, batters and coaches,” Hill said.

“I’ve always been stressing to our umpires that there’s more to it than giving a decision or counting to six - the game-management part of the role is of paramount importance, especially the higher you go.”

Hill said he will miss the conversations, the questions and the learning that went with the role but knows cricket will never be far from his radar.

Naturally, we wanted to hear about his days in the middle, standing as one of the ICC Elite Panel Umpires. 

Hill recalls one match at Lord’s as a “pinch yourself” moment in his career.

“I was third umpire at Lord’s for the second Test in 2013,” Hill said.

“After lunch on day one, the officials, along with the players, were lined up on the field shaking hands with the Queen.

“You certainly don’t start umpiring and think you will end up doing something like that - it was certainly a moment that stands out.”

Hill quips that he “got the photo” that day, but is also quick to point out that those special moments shouldn’t be the sole motivation to take up umpiring.

“I’ve worked with some great people on the field over the years. In my recent role with NZC it’s been great to be able to give back and help develop the next generation of officials for long and successful careers.”

Hill reserves some special praise for Kim Cotton who he says is “leading the way brilliantly for us, and is an inspiration for other women considering roles as match officials.”

“She’s putting in a heap of time including juggling her job as a lawyer,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to see her making strides and getting New Zealand female umpires noticed on the world stage like at the recent ICC T20 Women’s World Cup in Australia where she stood in the final.”

Another memorable colleague of yesteryear was well known English umpire Ian ‘Gunner’ Gould.

Hill stood with Gould when the latter was cutting his teeth in international cricket.

“Gunner was a hard case,” Hill said.

“He came onto the scene very quickly and needed to school up fast.”

Hill recalls one incident similar to the now well-documented 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final.

“We were in Pakistan, a batsman was racing to get himself in for a second run, he dived and the ball hit his bat and went for a boundary.”

“Gunner came up to me as asked, ‘can we not give those runs’?”

“You could tell he was still fresh from his playing days and had that empathy for the players.

“He was a top man to work with, always wanted to do a good job and was also great for a beer at the end of a long series.”

It’s similar qualities Hill hopes he’s imparted to our next generation of umpires, a generation who will have the benefit of technology, such as DRS, as part of their umpiring arsenal.

“I think DRS is brilliant,” Hill said.

“It’s removed a lot of the rubbish we used to have to put up with and it also keeps the umpires on their toes out there.”

In a career with obvious highs, he has not yet decided where the next path will take him but says he will always be following the progress of New Zealand officials.

“It’s been an honour and a privilege to be involved,” he said.

“I wish those aspiring umpires the best in their careers and hope they can get as much enjoyment from the game as I have.”

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