Eugene Sanders (left) prepares to umpire in a Plunket Shield fixture (PHOTOSPORT)

Tough break leads to a life of decision making

Twelve years ago Eugene Sanders was diagnosed with kidney disease bringing an abrupt end to his cricket career...or so he thought.

With playing off limits, Sanders decided to channel his energies in another direction; he remained involved in the game he loved and became a cricket umpire. 

After gaining 14 years’ experience out in the middle and eight years as a NZC Reserve Panel umpire, Sanders is now taking up another challenge in cricket - a new role as NZC’s Community Umpire Manager.

Sanders comes with plenty of experience, having worked with Canterbury Cricket for four and a half years, leading the development of umpires within the community as well as engaging young cricketers on the importance of umpiring.  

“After starting my work at Canterbury Cricket, I soon harboured a desire to work at the national body,” said Sanders. 

“My work with Canterbury has certainly set me up to take on this new role with NZC and I’m thankful for their support.”

In his new role, Sanders will provide a vital link between the community and professional game for both umpires and scorers while creating a development pathway for those who aspire to higher honours.

“I want to provide a clear direction for umpires who want to progress through the ranks, opening their eyes to the opportunities while not understating the expectations required at the higher level. “

The job doesn’t come without its challenges, however, with recruiting new umpires and retaining current ones of paramount importance - a challenge Sanders is philosophical about.

“There’s no magic wand for recruitment and retention,” he said.

“We also know not all umpires want to be umpiring at the highest possible level - some love the club game. So it’s about working with the different groups within our umpiring family and finding out what makes them tick and give them the tools to succeed.

“Experienced umpires who do it for the love of the game are also an incredibly valuable resource for mentoring and supporting up-and-coming umpires.”

Sanders was quick to point out it’s exactly that mentoring and guidance that’s got him where he is today.

“I owe a lot to David Reid who was my first real mentor, he got me on the track to umpiring and I’ve never looked back. 

“Tony Hill has also had a big influence on me as an umpire coach; to have someone of his standing who has done so much in the game is inspirational.

“I also owe a lot to my family for their support and understanding. It takes a special group to allow you to stand out in a field watching the sport you love most Saturdays in summer.”

From a decision to give up playing the game, to a life devoted to making decisions, it would seem Eugene Sander’s latest move is a decision set to benefit many.

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