– Jim Knocks Himself Out

Society member, Jim McSweeney had a bit of bad luck when umpiring a game at Trumper Park between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney in 1960.

During the third quarter, Jim knocked himself out after a ball-up in play.  He bounced the ball then ran into it as the ruckmen attempted to punch the ball.

He fell to the ground and lay there unconscious while play continued after which the game was held up for about five minutes while St Johns Ambulancemen attended to him.  He was not especially hurt and continued on with the game.

It certainly was a firey encounter.

  • Players and spectators threw punches as the match ended;
  • One of the punches struck the boundary umpire;
  • Club officials were forced to call in police while a number of people demonstrated outside the umpires’  room after the match.
  • The League president, Wilf Holmes, warned one spectator to leave the ground and told him his admittance would be refused at future games.

McSweeney reported three players for fighting during the match he also reported a reserve grade player for abusing him after the game.

When the match finished a number of spectators rushed at the umpire attempting to strike him, one punch hitting boundary umpire, Ray McMullen.

There was a a fair bit of both on and off-field violence following WWII right up to the seventies.  Thankfully, such is not the case today.

Image shows Jim McSweeney in 1969.  He is the shortest one in the centre of the photograph.

– Hard Times For Umpires

Leo Harry, NSW AFL
Life Member and
Vice President

Umpires and umpiring in Sydney have had their share of strife from being assaulted to going on strike.

The umpires’ Association was formed in *1920 [1] mostly through the efforts of long time umpire and league advocate, Leo Errington Harry, better known as Leo Harry.  He was secretary and treasurer of the Association for 10 years and team manager of numerous state teams.  He was rewarded with life membership of the league in 1940.  The umpiring regime owes him a lot.

In July 1924 Tom Chinnick accompanied a Victorian schoolboys team to Sydney where they competed in a national carnival.  Chinnick was an umpire in a Melbourne suburban league and later the Mornington Peninsular Football Association.  While in Sydney, he agreed to a offer by the league to officiate in a major club game provided “the umpire listed for the match suffered no pecuniary loss.”

The Umpires’ Association met the night before games resulting in an umpires walkout if Chinnick officiated in the match.

This strained relations between the league an umpires’  association and Chinnick withdrew his “proffered” assistance and the weekend matches proceeded without further incident. [2]

Only a few months later Alec Mutch, a VFL umpire officiated in a finals match in Sydney.  This caused so much consternation in the umpiring ranks that they tendered their resignation as a body.  Mutch’s services had been secured through the VFL permit and umpire committee, “to help the local league in an emergency which had arisen.”

It was reported that “he gave the best exhibition of refereeing seen in an Australian Rules club game in Sydney.”  [3] And yet the umpires all resigned in the following manner as directed to the League Secretary: [4]

“Dear Sir,
I beg to notify you that all umpires connected with this association, including field, boundary, and goal, tender their resignation as umpires to your league from Friday, September 12, 1924.

(Signed) L. E. Harry. Secretary.”

Mutch stayed in Sydney and umpired the grand final the following week, performing splendidly. [5]

The next season the umpires must have swallowed their pride because everything went along quite smoothly until 1933.

This was the year of the National Carnival played at the SCG and in the week preceding the preliminary final the umpires went out for high fees.  They demanded fees be increased from 66 and in some cases 100%. [6]  This was during the big depression and times were hard. The league ignored their demands and the majority of umpires continued to offer themselves for the last two weeks of the season.

The Association disbanded and it was then resolved that the league employ umpires on an individual basis. [7]

This action however caused the disbandment of the umpires’ association and it wasn’t until September 1935 that a successful move was made to reform the organisation.

A further episode on umpiring in Sydney to come

*An Umpires’ Association in Sydney was formed in 1911 but did not appear to last more than two season.

[1] Referee Newspaper 5 May 1920, p.11
[2] Sydney Sportsman 15 July 1924, p.7
[3] The Sun 16 September 1924, p.5
[4] Labor Daily 13 September 1924, p.3
[5] Referee Newspaper 21 September 1924 p.10
[6] Sydney Morning Herald 5 September 1935 p.16
[7] Sydney Morning Herald 26 September 1933 p.16

– Umpiring

1972 Umpires at Training, Erskineville Oval

Each time I watch the AFL on TV it amazes me how quick the reactions are by umpires when they detect a free kick etc.

I guess its the same with all sports but Australian Football umpires are right on the spot, and in the big games, there are three of them!

Of course, like players, the game hasn’t always been particularly kind to umpires over the years but in more recent times umpiring as a discipline has become more professional and their role much more appreciated.

In 1973 Rod Humphries was a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and he authored a great piece about umpires and their training.

He began with:
“Any casual observer who happens to look in at Erskineville Oval between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock on Wednesday nights is likely to make a quick retreat to the Park View (hotel), just across the street.

At one end of the ground a team of deaf and dumb Rugby League players ginger their way through training, while at the other end an assorted bunch of men spend much of their training running BACKWARDS.”

Umpires in Sydney have used many training grounds over the years.  Erskineville Oval, Moore Park, Reg Bartley Oval at Rushcutters Bay, Fraser Park at Sydenham and Trumper Park, just to name a few.

Jack Armstrong playing for NSW as a ruckman

And they have had their share of characters in their number whether it be field, goal, boundary, their coaches and/or officials.  None though, could have been a more controversial character than ‘Black’ Jack Armstrong.

He played first grade in Sydney for over 15 years after he moved with his family from Coolamon in 1943.  Although the family settled in Ashmore Street, Erskineville, a stones throw from Erskineville Oval, Jack couldn’t get a game with the the nearby Newtown Club who were on the verge of a seven consecutive premiership run, so, along with his brother, he signed with the South Sydney club.

Jack spent six years with South before moving back to Newtown.  He was appointed captain-coach of the club in 1953 a position he held for three years.  Then he moved out west and played with the Liverpool club where he was also coach.  In 1960 he moved back to captain and coach Newtown then, in 1961, he gave away playing and began to umpire.

So here was a player who had probably been reported more times than any other Sydney footballer at that time who was now umpiring Sydney first grade.  If you listen to our podcast on the Jack Dean interview, he says that Jack was the hardest and most difficult oppenent he had opposed in his 20 year history.

jack’s umpiring career only lasted five years but during that time he officiated in club, final and interstate matches.  Lke his brother Joe  ten years before, Jack umpired the 1964 Sydney first grade grand final.  Then went back to the South Sydney Club at 44 years of age as captain-coach in 1967.  Of course he was reported again but used as his defence at the tribunal, “insanity”.  He got off.

1957 Jack Armstrong with Liverpool, in the thick of it. Ellis Noack is about to cop it

Humphries went on his article about umpires – and Jack, telling the readers “Jack was umpiring a third grade game before doing first grade and had cause to send the coach, a first grade player off the field for abusing him.”

“We were all in the same dressing room and he had a shot at me.  I told him if I wasn’t an umpire I would do something about it.  He said I didn’t have the guts”

“It was a sweet left hook’ Jack said laughing “and they had to drag him out of the mens’ toilet trough…”

So as you can imagine, he was one hell of an umpire!  and during his time, he knew almost everyone in Sydney football certainly during the 1950s and 60s.

In 1971 a car pinned him up against a brick wall which eventually led to the removal of his leg but he never lost his passion for the game.

– Umpires’ Association

Probably a little known fact in Sydney football was the folding of the NSW Australian National Football Umpires’ Association.

The Association was formed in 1911 but appeared not to continue as a combined group.  They were reformed in 1920 under the guidance of Leo Harry, a former umpire in a minor Melbourne League who went on to be the Associations secretary for nine years.  However the association was refused representation at league league level while umpires themselves were refused a seasons ticket for entry to games and boundary umpires were not allowed to report players unless they were officially appointed by the league.  

In that year Field Umpires were paid seven and six pence (75c) per club match and twenty five shillings ($2.50) for interstate games with the boundaries umpires receiving five shillings or 50c a match.

In the same year in an ambitious move, the NSW Football League resolved to provide umpires for the South West Football Association (Riverina) providing that they pay the umpires’ fees of £2 ($4) per game and travel expenses. Following an inquiry from the Culcairn Assn in July, as to the cost of obtaining umpires it was resolved that the fee would be three guineas ($6.60) with return rail fare and 6/- (60c) living expenses.

Towards the end of 1933, during the deep world wide depression, umpires refused to officiate during the finals unless they received a pay increase.  The league utilised other competent personnel to officiate and “the competition was brought to a successful conclusion.”  The umpires were further refused a pay rise at the commencement of the 1934 season with a result that the Umpires’ Association folded. 1

Umpires went without an association until the end of 1935 when a visit to the northern States by Bill Blackburn, a leading Victorian Football League umpire who officiated at the St George v North Shore match in early August following his exhibition in the Collingwood South Melbourne fixture at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the previous Saturday.  L.C. Keating from the Victorian Amateur Football Association  also came to Sydney in an effort to help.  He officiated in the 1935 Sydney grand final. 2

Since that demise of the association a lack of uniformity on the part of field umpires in interpreting rules particularly in relation to the then recent amendments had become apparent and members of the league’s executive committee were favourably disposed towards the proposal to reform the association so that umpires coaching classes can be commenced early in 1936.

With this end in view the members of the umpires appointment board attended one of the weekly referees coaching classes of the New South Wales Rugby League where the methods adopted by that body were closely studied.

Tom King one of the leading Australian Rules umpires at the time called a meeting of umpires at the Sydney Sports Club in Hunter Street in an effort to resuscitate the association.

The result of this meeting is unknown but in all probably it resumed its activities but still unrepresented on the League.SMH – 5 September 1935 p.161.  NSWANFL Annual Report

  1. 1935 NSWANFL Annual Report
    2.  SMH 5 September 1935 p.13

Leo Harry – forever an umpire

Leo Harry, NSW AFL Life Member and Vice President
Leo Harry, NSW AFL Life Member and Vice President

We pulled this out of a 1931 newspaper.

Leo Harry, chairman of tho Umpire Sydney Appointment Board, played for Northcote (Vic.) for three years, and in Sydney for 13 years. He holds what is believed to be an Australian record for umpire’s fees in any code of football.  In 1923 he received 18 guineas (believe it or not, $1200 in today’s money) for umpiring a match at Corowa, NSW. The fee was so high because Leo had to pay another man to do the work he vacated by taking the time off for the trip to the ‘bush’. Mr. Harry is a son of the (very) late Jack Harry, the famous Victorian cricketer of Northcote (Vic.). His son Jack, though only three years of age, promises to follow in his footsteps. Leo says the, youngster can run like a deer.”

Leo came to Sydney following WWI and became involved in football, firstly as an umpire and later as a league official.

He was active as a Vice President of the NSW Football League, Chairman of the Umpires’ Appointment Board for many years, NSW state team manager on several occasions and ground manager at many interstate games and finals.

It was reported in 1929:
Leo. Harry, hon. secretary and founder of the New South Wales Australian Rules Umpires’ Association, will retire at the end of the present season after ten years meritorious service.  Mr. Harry refers with pride to the fact that, when he formed the Association of Umpires ten years ago (1919), they were paid 2/6 ($9 in today’s money) a match. To-day they are paid £1/2/6 ($81 in today’s money). Mr. Harry’s loss will be almost irreparable.”

Then in 1947 a report said:
Leo Harry, claims a record for the code in this State.
He possesses life-membership medals of the N.S.W. League (1940), the NSW Australian National Football Umpire’s Association, and the Metropolitan Juniors’ Association.”

It’s amazing that people, like Leo, do so much for football and they become forgotten with the passing of time.  Leo died in 1962 aged 72.

Umpire Didn’t Hear The Siren

Timekeepers Clock
Timekeepers Clock

I bet you have heard stories of the umpiring failing to hear the sire/bell or alarm to end a quarter or in fact a game.

One of the most recent incidents was in 1987 when leading Sydney umpire Frank Kalayzich, who incidentally retired this year following an illustrious career with the whistle, failed to hear the final siren at Trumper Park and in those vital few seconds of the match St George goaled to snatched a narrow three point win over Pennant Hills in the first semi final.

One of main reasons is that timekeepers fail to continuously sound the alarm at the end of the quarter, which is still the case in some games. Timekeepers are required to keep sounding the siren or ring the bell – if they still use those things, until the umpire in charge of the play signifies that he has heard it and ends the quarter.  THIS is what happened in 1987.

In April 1946 it was again failure of the timekeepers to ring the bell ‘sufficiently’ which caused the field Victorian field umpire Tom Jamieson not to end a game between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney . Easts won by 90 points.

At the end of the first quarter Jamieson complained that neither he nor the players near him had heard the bell rung. He instructed the timekeepers to keep ringing the bell until he had signified that he had heard it.

A couple of years later it was all on again: In August 1951 the match between Sydney (Naval) and Newtown ended in confusion when central umpire Wal Craig, a future umpires’ coach, failed to hear the full-time bell.

Sydney won a thrilling game – the best of the season – by one point, the scores being Sydney 12-18 (90), Newtown 12-17 (89).

After the game, rumours that the game had ended in a draw caused a fight between rival women spectators in the stand. One of the women involved in the fight was crying as she was escorted from the ground by a friend.

When the bell was rung the had been kicked over the fence.  Craig, who had not heard the bell, told the boundary umpire to throw it in. It was then that Newtown ruckman Jack Armstrong sensed that Craig had not heard the bell, picked up the ball and kicked it to another Newtown player, who kicked for goal. By this time other players realised what was happening and raced towards play. Sydney full forward Bert Dickson won the race and kicked it over the boundary line, just outside the Sydney point post. Had the ball gone through the posts, Newtown would have drawn with Sydney.

While official Newtown timekeeper Bill Townsend continued to ring the bell, Sydney timekeeper Albert Bates ran on to the field to tell Craig the game was over.

Craig was greeted with cheers and boos as he left the ground. He was also heckled by a crowd waiting outside the gates.

In June 1954 in a game between North Shore and South Sydney, umpire Bill Wagener did not hear the bell and bounced the ball up, two yards from South’s goals. A North player gained possession but failed to get a clear kick at goal, and scored a point.

South won 12-8 (80) to 10-17 (77), after leading by l8 points at three quarter time.

There was no bell at the Moore Park match between Railway and Sydney on 15 May 1920, and the time keeper had to yell out ‘time’. The umpire failed to hear, though some of the players did and knocked off. While they were leaving the ground Shannon, of Sydney kicked a goal, and it went down on the card.

These are familiar stories with umpires failing to hear the bell. But it is not normally their fault.

The club supplying the equipment sometimes provide sub-standard equipment and quite often timekeepers are unaware of their responsibilities with regards to time-keeping, maintaining the score and what to do in the event of a drawn final.  But most particularly and in many cases, they fail to continuously sound the alarm device.

And don’t let us revisit the 1961 finals debacle when TWO finals games were subject to time-keeping problems.

We have been plagued by these events in the past and are bound to be in the future.

Old Umpires Never Die

2015 McSweeney, Macpherson, Huon thumbnailHow does the saying go?  “Old umpires never die, they simply lose their whistle.”

Such was the case today when these two former Sydney umpires paid a surprise visit to the Society’s rooms at the Western Suburbs Aussie Rules Club, Croydon Park.

On the left in the pic is Jim McSweeney who did his first umpiring job in the mid 1950s;  He is now 81.  And on the right is Chris Huon, the man we described forever a bridesmaid, never a bride, meaning that he got second place in at least three umpiring appointments in Sydney during his career.

He told the story today that in the days of the single umpire in the late 1960s, two would be appointed to the grand final.  Both would dress and ready themselves for the game.  Then, the chairman of the Umpires’ Appointment Board would come into the umpires room at Trumper Park and announce who was to control the game.  Chris always got second place and the position of reserve umpire, on the bench.

Nevertheless the two assumed a number of roles in their time on the committee of the Umpires’ Association, from president through to treasurer.

The two still umpire today, this time they officiate in the Masters Football Competition in Sydney.

Chris brought with him a number of items he donated to the Society which were precious to him during his time with the whistle.  They include rule books, appointment sheets, notes on umpiring, meeting minutes etc.  The Society will scan then house these objects in their collection at Croydon Park.

While Jim had with him a photo of the umpires who officiated in the 1969 Under 19 Grand Final.  From left: Graeme 1969 U19 Grand Final Umpires thumbnailWhykes, Ken Smith, Leo Magee, Jim McSweeney, Peter Ryder, Bert Odewahn, Pat McMahon, Bob Tait.  Here again, Jim was the ‘reserve’ umpire.

The man in the middle of these two old umpires at top is Paul Macpherson, Vice President of the History Society and himself a former umpire in the Diamond Valley League, Melbourne.

Mal Lee

1967 Sydney Grand Final UmpiresA chance mention by school teacher, Paul McSweeney, about Australian football and umpiring led to one of his young students, Rachel, to mention that her Pop was an umpire.

“What is his name”asked Paul, son of NSW Umpires’ Association Life Member, Jim McSweeney.

“Malcolm”was the timid reply.

“Malcolm?” then after a slight pause, “Not Mal Lee” Paul questioned.  “Yes, thats him.”

Paul told his father which led to a gathering of 1960s Sydney umpires at the Carringbah home of Mal Lee’s son just before Christmas 2014.

Mal Lee was known to many in Sydney football circles during the 1960s and early 70s.

He came to Sydney from Yarraville in the late 1950s and because he lived at Rosebery, turned out with the South Sydney Club.  However the then slightly built Lee found it all a bit daunting and still wanting an involvement in the game, signed up to umpiring.

He started in the seconds and on the boundary for firsts but slowly began to make himself a name.

A straight talker with an open mind became one of the best umpires in the history of football to grace Sydney grounds.

He umpired  the 1963, 67 & 68 Sydney grand finals plus grand finals on the South Coast and Newcastle.

Malcolm was President of the Umpires’ Association from 1966-70, treasurer in 1962 and umpires’ coach between 1971-75.

After this Mal moved away from Sydney and lost contact with his friends and peers.

His standout involvement led to him being inducted into the NSW Umpires’ Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2001.  Unfortunately the honour could not be bestowed on him personally because his whereabouts were unknown.

Jim McSweeney realised this anomaly and after making contact with Mal and knowing he was to be in Sydney, made arrangements for the plaque to be presented to him at his Christmas visit to his family.

2014 Old Umpires Group thumbnail 2014 Mal Lees Umpires Award thumbnail
back l-r: Graham Allomes, Bill Allen, Chris Huon,
Unknown, Front: Len Palmer, Mal Lee, Jeff Dempsey
The Award

Jim also arranged for several of his old colleagues to be present at the informal ceremony, including Len Palmer, Bill Allen, Chris Huon, Grahm Allomes, Jeff Dempsey and ? .  Their attendance was a surprise.

They are all photographed here with Mal holding his award.2014 Ian Granland and Mal Lee thumbnail

Unfortunately Jim could not join then after being rushed to hospital for a triple by-pass.  He is recovering well.

While in Sydney and out of the blue, he and his family paid a visit to the Society’s Rooms at Wests Magpies Club.  Fortunately it was on a Tuesday, the day that some members of the committee gather at the club for their working bees.

He was shown various items relating the the period in which he was involved, particularly with regards to umpiring.  He was able to identify several personnel from the umpiring fraternity in the numerous photographs the Society have in their collection. Also, Mal offered several items of memorabilia he has in his possession which relate to his time in Sydney and state football.  During his visit he took out a 3 year membership subscription with the Society

Malcolm is pictured here with the Football History Society President, Ian Granland.

Umpire Felled

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.  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.


1969 NSWAFL 1st Grade Grand Final Umpires smallChris Huon is a life member of the NSW Australian Football Umpires’ Association.

Chris lived in Sydney and was introduced to Australian Rules football by the McCourt family who lived next door.  He joined Vince and Pat who were already playing for Miranda in the St George Area starting in the under 12’s and continued until the under 16’s when he transferred to St Patrick’s in 1963 which was closer to home.

In his final years of junior football Chris became interested in umpiring and started officiating in junior games.

Upon finishing junior football, Chris had two choices? Try out for third grade with the St George club or continue with umpiring.  He adopted the latter.

In 1963 he joined the NSW Umpires Association and at the same time assumed the challenge of arranging umpires for the St George District JAFA from Alan Gibbons who had done it for years. This took Chris in contact with Jim McSweeney who proved an inspiration with his guidance and instruction, assisting him at this time both on the junior front and also on the senior group.

He started his senior career as a boundary Umpire soon finding his way to third grade (U19) games before his eventual promotion through second to first grade where he went on to umpire 97 games as a central umpire before retiring at the end of the 1975 season.

Fortunately for us (and you), Chris kept a scrap book.  Included in the book are newspaper articles and, Football Records, his umpiring appraisals, reports and other very interesting documents.

Here are the Sydney umpires’ fees in 1969:

1ST $9.60 $5.25 $3.20
RESERVE $6.00 $3.20 $2.30
UNDER 19 $4.25

Clubs provided goal and boundary umpires for the Under 19 grade.

Chris was treasurer of the Umpires’ Association in 1972-73.

Although continually overlooked for a first grade grand final, Huon was a very accomplished umpire. He was selected as the 1970-04-01 - Chris Huon Invitation to Royal Reception smallcentral umpire in the June 1969 inter-state fixture between NSW and South Australia Seconds at the SCG.  Additionally, the following year he was one of only two umpires chosen to represent the association at a Royal Reception for the Queen and Prince Phillip held in Sydney.  We have attached a copy of the invitation on the right.

His 1970 Umpires’ Association membership form can be viewed here, just click. Scroll for two pages.

Below is an inventory of payments Huon received in 1971, obviously hand written by the association treasurer.  Strangely enough, most of his appointments that year were either in reserve grade or in second division.  Towards the latter part of the season he was back on the first grade panel.  Note the fine for non-attendance at training.

1971 Payments Umpire Report
1971 Chris Huon Payments small 1972 Player Report by Chris Huon small
Umpire Appraisal Club Report
on Umpire
1971 Umpire Observer's Report on Chris Huon small 1969 Club report on umpire Chris Huon small


Also included is a 1972 umpire’s report by Huon on a South Sydney player for striking Western Suburbs player, John Caulfield.  The reported player was later a long term member of the league’s tribunal!  In this instance he was found guilty and received 3 weeks.

Further, there is a far from complimentary 1969 report by South Sydney club official Allan Sullivan, BA JP, on a Club Umpire Appraisal Form in a separate match against Western Suburbs.  The form is dated 3 April, it should read 3 May.  Brian McMahon, the Western Suburbs official,  who completed a similar form described Huon’s effort as: “commendable performance.  Appeared to exercise good control and he was consistent.  A hard game to umpire but a job well done.” Wests won the game 33.24 (222) to 2.7 (19).  Souths did not have a good season that year.

We add this because Allan went on to become a successful secretary then president of the Western Suburbs Club.

Then there is a 1971 hand written report by an umpires’ observer on Huon’s performance in a first grade match between Balmain and Western Suburbs at Picken Oval.  John Lanser, a former chairman of the Tribunal, is noted as a boundary umpire in the game.

Finally, we found a report from a 1969 pre-season game between Balmain and South Sydney where Huon was complimented for his effort in a report that said:

A first class effort was turned in by Chris Huon.  He is superbly fit and was
able to give decisive decisions.  It should be a great battle to see who makes
the first grade panel for the opening fixtures – NSWAFL Football Record 6 April 1969


The image at the top of this report is the 1969 first grade, grand final umpires who are: back row, l-r: Leo McDonald, Stephen Sewell, front row: Graham Whykes (trainer), Ken Potts (boundary), Chris Huon (emergency umpire), Brian O’Donohue (central umpire), Dave Cullen (boundary), Bob Tait (trainer).  The photo was taken at Trumper Park prior to the commencement of the game.

These are in the days of one field umpire.  Both Whykes and Tait were field and boundary umpires and as members of the association, volunteered to be the umpires’ trainers for the day.