Much has been written about the integrity of umpires but back in 1925 an event happened in Sydney football which very much questions an umpire’s ethics or was it all conjecture?
Lenard Wallace Gibb, a former VFL player with both Collingwood and Richmond prior to World War 1 turned up to umpire in Sydney. He was 37.
Gibb was immediately appointed to senior matches, obviously having experience in other parts of Australia. He even umpired the NSW v VFL game in August 1925 where, in an almost unique result,the locals won by one point.
But it was in the final between Sydney and Paddington that saw Gibb involved in a most sensational incident.
Gibb had given a more than satisfactory display throughout the season and was hailed as one if not the leading umpire in the state.
Paddington went into the final against the Sydney club at the old Erskineville Oval as firm favourites having defeated Newtown the week before.
Playing before a crowd of 5,000, the two sides were locked at 3-2 all at quarter but as the game progressed many questioned Gibbs’ “curious decisions’. It was said that Paddington were continually being penalised for perfectly legitimate play, but, “to the credit of both sides, the players held themselves admirably.”
In the third term the decisions of the umpire really raised disapproval. By this time, Sydney had increased their lead by 2-5, whilst Paddington failed to add to their half time score.
Because of the umpire’s apparent one eyed performance, it was stated during the change over that the Paddington team were going to leave the field en-masse, but they commenced the final session with their usual last quarter zeal. With eight minutes to go they were within 8 points of their opponents. It was then that Paddington’s captain, Charlie Hussey, took exception to the umpire’s decisions, and delivered a blow which landed square on Gibb’s jaw, with the result that he was out for several minutes.
The blow was delivered at short range, and was a typical knock-out effort. As Mr. Gibb lay on the ground, surrounded by tho players, a speedy rush to the scene was made by Sergeant Koser and uniformed police. About 200 onlookers quickly followed, but the presence of the police prevented any further unseemly conduct.
On reaching the dressing-room Mr. Gibb collapsed, and did not recover for 20 minutes. In the mean time the ambulance transport motor had reached the ground, but Mr. Gibb, who was being assisted to dress by several onlookers, refused to be taken to hospital.Â About five minutes later Mr. Gibb recovered, and, though in semi-dazed condition, resumed control of the game.
Pandemonium reigned supreme, spectators rushing the ground and it was only through the presence of the police that the game was allowed to proceed.
Upon his recovery Gibb resumed control of tho game. Feelings were running high, but still players from both sides remained calm, and when the final bell rang Sydney had won by 15 points, Sydney 9-13, Paddington 7-0. Excitement was intense amongst the spectators, and Gibb was eventually escorted from the field by a cordon of plain clothed and uniformed police.
Following the match the Paddington Secretary Bert Hollis issued a statement regarding the incident: He said he was sorry for what had occurred. “Hussey’s action has not only caused me surprise, but also hundreds of other supporters of the game. He has always been recognized as a cool, level headed player, and, although his action is unforgivable, still it must have been under the greatest provocation that he committed the offence. He has represented the state for the past five years, and his behaviour on the field has, always been favourably commented upon.”
“The Paddington Club has applied to the N.S.W. Football League for a special tribunal to investigate evidence we have in our possession. Until that tribunal meets and arrives at a decision, I will refrain from passing further comment; with the exception that Gibb, in conversation with me after the match, stated that Paddington had made the same mistake as East Sydney did in their semi-final three weeks ago ”played the man instead of the ball” but as he was still in a semi-stupor when making this accusation, I leave the matter to the judgment of spectators.’
The following day at Hampden Oval (Trumper Park) the Paddington club at a special meeting unanimously carried a resolution that ‘The N.S. Wales Australian Football League be requested to appoint a special committee to enquire into the events which led to the assault of Umpire Gibb at Erskineville Oval on September 12, and that until such committee is appointed, and a decision arrived at, the anticipated charges, if any, of Gibb against certain Paddington players be held in obeyance. We request that the Press and public be admitted to such meeting.”
Some interesting sidelights on this aspect of the game and certain conduct alleged against the umpire by officials was to be fully dealt with in the ‘Referee’ next Wednesday.
The Special Tribunal of the League subsequently met and disqualified C. Hussey (Paddington captain) for two years, E. Huxley (Newtown) until June 30, 1926, and Clem Clark (Paddington) for one week. Two years is an unusually light penalty for such a heinous offence.
Mr. J. McNeil, president of Paddington Club, resigned his position from the League in protest against the methods adopted in the recent enquiry into the allegations made by Paddington against a paid official of the League – the umpire. The League found the charges were not proven’. There the matter ends. Members of the League were allegedly secretive concerning the enquiry, and it appeared as if the public would be left in the. dark.
A critic commented that “the public, however, is not concerned with the irrelevant personalities introduced into the enquiry, but the public must certainly feel concerned that a club of the type of Paddington should level a number of serious charges against an umpire, all of which were dismissed.” He, and others allege that there was “something peculiar somewhere” with a suggestion that gambling might have been the cause of the umpire’s strange decisions.
Gibb never umpired in Sydney again and two weeks after the incident was hasselled in an extra-ordinary manner by a number of women during an exhibition game between NSW v Footscray, so much so that he had to seek police protection.
Then, to make matters worse, in the third quarter of the same game, a member of the local team gave a regrettable exhibition of ill-temper in apparently striking at tho field umpire, who thereupon ran to tho fence fronting the pavilion, with tho apparent intention of attracting the police.
Tho matter, however, was settled without need of the law.