Four accomplished umpires honoured in 2019 awards

The Hockey New Zealand Awards recognition continue today with the remaining umpiring categories. The following four umpires have performed with great skill and dedication in their area.

Male Umpire of the Year: Dave Tomlinson

Female Umpire of the Year: Amber Church

Most Promising Male Umpire of the Year: Anton Paulin

Most Promising Female Umpire of the Year: Kelly-Anne Foskin


Dave Tomlinson had another great year of international hockey before Covid-19 shutdown boarders. Prior to the pause in the international calendar, Tomlinson had amassed a whopping 97 international matches umpired.

Tomlinson grew up in Central Hawke’s Bay where there were plenty of sports to try, but he came across plenty of passionate people in the early days that convinced him to give hockey a try. Since he was a youngster, Tomlinson always felt the natural progression was to go back and help coach or umpire games.

Tomlinson’s involvement in the sport has been going on for nearly thirty years now and has seen him fill roles as a player, coach, manager, umpire and fan. He got his start in umpiring when he was in high school and progressed through Hatch Cup, U15 and 18’s through to the international stage. Tomlinson was on track to umpire his first Olympic Games in 2020 having been selected as part of a team of five New Zealander’s for the games.

Tomlinson states that he “loves the speed, skill and structure of the game”. Not only is he an umpire but he still plays the sport and gets out on the turf at every opportunity he can.

Hockey has gone through some significant changes during Tomlinson’s time in the sport such as “removing offside, carbon fibre sticks, reverse hitting, drag flicking, and g turns to name a few. The advancement of skills has made for a more interesting sport but also more challenging to officiate”.

On receiving the award, Tomlinson stated: “It’s an awesome recognition, we have a robust, supportive umpiring community. To be recognised amongst this group is pretty special”.

Tomlinson acknowledged the help and support he has been given along the way by the likes of Stuart Ashby, Craig Gribble, Dave Craven and his wife Jackie Tomlinson (also selected for the Tokyo Olympics). “Focus on the journey, not the destination” and keep “smiling” are pieces of advice that continue to ring true for Tomlinson.


Amber Church has been around the international hockey scene since 2013 when she umpired her first international match. From then Church went on to umpire at her first Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and was due to attend her second before the Covid-19 postponement of the Tokyo Games.

Growing up in a rural community in New Zealand, Friday nights were built with anticipation around Saturday sport. Church says “the question wasn’t if you would be playing a sport but what sport you would be playing”.

It was natural for Church to get into hockey as all her siblings played and she didn’t want to be standing down at Harry Barker Reserve getting muddy and not getting to run around and have fun.

Amber’s parents instilled from a young age values around giving back and being appreciative of the people that were helping to ensure that sports could run. “When we played sports everyone had to do their bit for things to run smoothly, that could be as little as running match cards out to an umpire before a game”.

During high school Church played, coached, umpired and volunteered in roles which she continues to fulfil to this day. When she can find time amongst her international umpiring duties, Church still captains her local premier women’s team and volunteers her time to mentor and develop local umpires.

Be careful of getting into a conversation with Amber as she will talk to you all day long about hockey as her passion for the game is endless.

One of the skill changes that have altered the sport dramatically is the self-pass, Church commented that “It has sped up the game and made it more entertaining for spectators. It also requires players and umpires to be more aware of what is happening around them.”

Church commented on receiving the Female Umpire of the Year award, “There is such a high calibre of officials in New Zealand, all of who had a 2019 to be proud of. It is an absolute honour to receive this award. Everyone that I came in contact with throughout my journey has a part in it”.

Mentors play a significant role in development in our community, and their advice will have an immense impact on people. “The general theme of advice I have received is always try and improve and be better than before as you never stop learning”.


Anton Paulin is a rising umpire who comes out of the Horowhenua Hockey Association. As is the case with many of our officials, Paulin started off as a player before picking up umpiring. He still hasn’t given up playing yet and finds time amongst his umpiring duties.

The 2019 season was an exciting one for Anton as he umpired at his first National Association Tournament in Tauranga, as well as go to the National U21 Tournament.

As a child growing up, Paulin played football up until the age of seven. He then moved to Levin and wanted to give a new sport a go. This coincided with a group of Black Sticks players coming to town; an experience Paulin enjoyed so much he signed up to play hockey the next day.

Paulin has now been playing hockey for fifteen years and has been umpiring for the past ten years. If he’s not busy enough with those commitments he does some coaching as well.

When asked what he loves most about hockey, Paulin responded: “he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata (it’s the people, it’s the people, it’s the people)”.

“Hockey has allowed me to form relationships and share experiences with a countless number of people from all walks of life and parts of the country. Those relationships and experiences are the most special part of our sport for me. Without them, I wouldn’t be the umpire and person I am today”.

Hockey has been evolving over the past few years and the speed of the game and the aerial nature that the sport now has are aspects that Paulin finds fascinating while umpiring.

Paulin commented on what it means to win this award, “Many of the big names of umpiring in New Zealand have received this award. It is an honour to have my name on the trophy with theirs. To be recognised for the hard work I’ve put into my umpiring makes it all worth it, but I couldn’t do it without the support of the people around me. This is a milestone on my umpiring pathway, and I am excited to see what the future has in store for me”.


Kelly-Anne Foskin is the 2019 Most Promising Female Umpire recipient. In 2019 she umpired at her first Vantage National U21 Tournament and performed with great skill and control. Foskin has come through the ranks and has continued her steady rise since she umpired at her first Collier Trophy in 2014.

As a youngster growing up in Taranaki, Foskin would always head down to the turf and watch her dad umpiring in the local club competition. Once she got into umpiring herself it was her dad that would provide valuable mentoring to the aspiring umpire.

Her family was always around the turf as her Dad and older brother were both players and officials themselves. It was only natural that around the age of nine that Foskin would then pick up a whistle for the first time.

On receiving the award Foskin commented, “It is truly a great honour to receive this award. I know quite a few amazing people have won this award before me and I hope I can live up to the standards they have set. Receiving this award also makes me reflect upon on the people that have helped form me into the umpire I am today and I really just feel so grateful, I know it wouldn’t be possible without them”.



Posted on Thursday, 15 October, 2020 | CommunityFeature