Mark Rendell – The Umpire with 360° Vision

1976 Grand Final - East Sydney v Nth Shore
Umpire Mark Rendell is quickly on the scene to break up a fight between
East Sydney and North Shore players in the 1976 Sydney grand final at Trumper Park

Mark Rendell, widely regarded by his peers as the best umpire of his generation, had 360° vision which he needed in the days of only one field umpire.

Rendell and his fellow Sydney field umpires over time, John Leber, Jim McSweeney, and Frank Kalayzich umpired over 2000 games and twenty Sydney grand finals between them. All of them have been nominated to the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

Dr Rodney Gillett profiles their nominations:


“With ruckmen like Newtown’s David Sykes (ex-Fitzroy), East Sydney’s Greg Harris, and also Kevin Pearson, I needed eyes in the back of my head, particularly with “Sykesy”, recalled Rendell.

“There was no line across the centre of the circle in those days so the rucks used to really jostle for position and use their hefty frames to advantage. Also their arms and elbows”.

“I used to manage the players, not control them” said Rendell.

“I remember many ‘lively spirited interactions’ with players”.

“I umpired some real characters, blokes like Sam Kekovich, former Collingwood player Phil Manassa, firstly coaching Wests then Balmain, and Allan Dudley from Wests”, he recalled.

Greg Harris, who coached East Sydney to three successive premierships, 1981-1983, is full of praise for Mark Rendell’s umpiring, “Mark was very pragmatic. He always made common-sense decisions, instead of being over-technical. He was well respected by the players.”

Mark Rendell was also a mentor to many young emerging umpires in Sydney including Frank Kalayzich who went onto a stellar umpiring career and the highly-regarded Nick Angelos, both came out of the North Shore junior competition where Rendell was a coaching advisor for many years.

He also served in various capacities for the NSW Australian Football Umpires’ Association including president (seven years), treasurer (eight years), and board member (twenty years).

Mark umpired 416 umpires including seven grand finals in a sterling umpiring career spanning from 1975 until his final retirement in 2003.

He is a life member of the Sydney Football league and the NSWAFUA. He is also in the NSWAFUA Hall of Fame.


John Leber was an outstanding senior umpire in the Sydney competition from after WWII until 1955; he then umpired in the St George & District Junior Association until 1973.

A youthful
John Leber

He umpired senior grand finals in 1951 and 1955. He umpired 147 senior games as well as six interstate matches.

The citation on his entry into the NSW Australian Football Umpires’ Association Hall of Fame states:

“John’s approach to umpiring was as the ultimate professional. His conduct both on and off the field was of the highest standard, and he was a positive role model for younger umpires”

John was renowned as a very caring person and he contributed enormously to the Boys Town Junior Football Club based at Engadine from the early 1950s up until the late 70s.

He coached a number of Sydney and State junior representative teams in the early 1960s.  He also played a big part in the formation of what is now the Southern Power Club.

Through his work connections at TAA airlines he was instrumental in arranging travel for State representative teams as well as the end-of-season trip for the umpires.

John is a life member of the NSWAFUA .


    Jim McSweeney

Jim McSweeney is one of the most popular and respected umpires ever in Sydney football.

Jim began umpiring in the Sydney senior competition in 1960 after beginning in the St George juniors and umpired until 1990. During this time Jim umpired 674 games including 152 first-grade games.

He took up umpiring in Super Rules (now the Masters competition) during 1990 where he renewed acquaintances with many of the players he had umpired in senior football in Sydney.

Jim umpired in the Masters until 2017 – when he entered his eighties. He so endeared himself to the Masters players and officials that he was admitted to their Hall of Fame in 2000.

He also rendered outstanding service to the NSWAFUA as president for six years in the 1970s and was a member of the Board of Directors for sixteen years.

He is a life member of the NSWAFUA and a member of their Hall of Fame.


left Frank Kalayzich
with Mark Rendell

Frank Kalayzich holds the record for the most games umpired in Sydney (514) and the most grand finals (11).

Frank began his umpiring in the North Shore junior competition in 1978 and commenced umpiring in the Sydney competition in 1983 with his first senior appointment in 1986.

He rates his first grand final in 1987, the notorious clash between St George and Campbelltown which he co-umpired with his mentor Mark Rendell, as his most challenging. There were 29 reports arising from the game! Frank made six reports in the first quarter.

He subsequently umpired until 2015 when he retired after his eleventh grand final. In addition to 156 lower grade games, Frank also umpired quite a number of VFL/AFL Under 19s and Reserve grade games.

Frank was renowned for his endurance running, immaculate preparation, and astute decision making. He was also a willing mentor for up-and coming umpires of any age.

The NSWAFUA awards the Frank Kalayzich Trophy for the most improved field umpire each year.

He is a life member of the Sydney Football league and the NSWAFUA. He is also in the NSWAFUA Hall of Fame.


 Source: part NSW Australian Football Umpires’ Association website



Three Matches by Jim McSweeney

WhistleFootball matches fall into many categories. I always have in my mind three particular matches, they are:

  • The Most Uninteresting,
  • The Hardest and The Most Enjoyable
  • The Most Uninteresting.

Having umpired 1st Grade on the Saturday in Sydney our group was required to umpire a Sydney Under 16 selection trial on the Sunday morning at Moore Park, opposite the Bat and Ball Hotel. Any barracking was only for individual players by the few parents in attendance. If there was no barracking for the teams it normally led to a very dull atmosphere and was a bit of a let down for us after our match the previous day. No matter how hard we tried to properly motivate ourselves, I believe that this mood led to what may be described as a below par performance by us. Whilst some people are at times critical of barracking, I believe a certain balanced amount does create an interesting atmosphere.

It is possible that this type of situation goes with the type of match. Nineteen years earlier I was fortunate to play in the same selection trial on the same ground. For myself and some others it was not a very interesting match. I played on the wing marking a player named John Locke who later played for Balmain. Throughout the game each of us only had an opportunity to touch the ball about four times, the other wing seemed to be where all the action was. Needless to say I did not make the selected team and I think John also missed out.

The Hardest
I was appointed to a 2nd Grade match at Trumper Park between Newtown and Western Suburbs. The make up of the teams was a large number of players who had competed against each other for many years in 1st Grade and many hard fought Grand Finals. I always said that if a group of players wanted to create a riot there was not a lot one umpire could do to stop it. The Appointments Board must have had some premonition about the game and I was blessed with two excellent Boundary Umpires, which was unusual for reserve grade matches of the time.

On the first bounce the Wests ruckman gave his Newtown opponent a very soft slap across the face and I awarded a free kick.  The Newtown player immediately spat in the direction of the Wests player missing by a long way, fortunately for all concerned his spitting ability was a long way short of his kicking ability. I blew my whistle and said to the two players “You obviously have a lot of things to square off about. Leave the youngsters alone.” I restarted the game knowing that the Boundary Umpires would ensure that they would keep a very keen eye on any action away from the play.

It was a match that certainly kept me on my toes and alert and I must admit I enjoyed the pressure. The match continued in a spirited manner and there were no more obvious indiscretions.

Umpiring training the next week was on the same evening as Newtown’s at Erskineville Oval. After training we attended the Kurrajong Hotel across the road to rehydrate. A number of Newtown players were also there. Laurie Mc Nulty a great Newtown goal sneak with many, many years experience come up to me with a satisfied look on his face and said, “You know Mac that was the hardest game I have ever played.” This made umpiring feel worthwhile.

The Most Enjoyable
Towards my later years umpiring senior football I umpired wherever I could help out and enjoyed it tremendously. Some lower grade games can be as interesting as top grade matches.

  Jim McSweeney at       his last Masters             Rules Match

In the early 1980’s I was appointed to a 2nd Grade match in Second Division between Liverpool and St Ives at Rosedale Oval. On the drive out I was complaining to myself about being appointed to this match as I also had to umpire a 3rd Grade match between Wests and St George the next morning. After much grumbling to myself, things started to fall into place. A few weeks earlier both Liverpool and Pennant Hills 2nd Grades had both been reported for misconduct. So i guessed that my appointment was possibly to utilise my experience to ensure that teams behaved themselves. I had never umpired St Ives at that stage but had umpired Liverpool (Sthn Districts) on many occasions over the years and knew a number of their players very well. Being early at the ground I took the opportunity to catch up with and chat with the Liverpool players that I knew and also introduced myself to St Ives coach, etc.

Rosedale is a great ground to umpire on and produces some wonderful football. The game progressed without any incident and it was a joy to be involved in. I was never interested in scores during games as I always felt that there was enough pressure on an umpire during a match without worrying about three or thirty points difference in the score. On preparing to sign the score cards I realised that the scores were even at the end of the first three quarters and Liverpool won by three points. How good can it be? It does not have to be an AFL Grand Final to be great, every match stands on its own importance.

It was one match that my wife, Babs was unable to attend and on my return home she, as usual, asked how I got on? I was pleased to be able to tell her how great it was and the only blemish was that I had three bad bounces throughout the match.

Umpire and Administrator Pass

This article concerns a former Sydney umpire, Ian Sonnemann and was written as a piece in the 1982 VFL Umpires’ Association Newsletter and sent into us by Society member, Chris Huon.  Ian died last year.

“Commitment and Dedication would best describe Ian “The Gent” Sonnemann. In addition to his twenty years of umpiring, Ian has been banking on the Wales for some twenty-six years and has now reached the Position of Assistant Manager of the Personnel Department.

Four interstate transfers in his employment have led lan’s umpiring career into three States and five umpiring associations. Ian’s umpiring career began in 1953 with the Amateurs after having played the game for seven years. His Playing days included the Ovens & King, Wangaratta Junior League, Tallangatta League, Sunday Unregistered League, a run with the Richmond Football Club, Sandringham and finally Power House in the Amateurs.

A transfer in employment in 1965 to Canberra saw Ian join the Canberra Australian Football League Umpires. In 1967 he became President of the Association.

Ian at umpire training 1973

Another transfer in 1967 saw Ian back in Melbourne where he joined the V.F.L. Senior list in 1968. He confronted the Board at Harrison House and in 1969 was promoted to the Seniors Intermediate Squad at Royal Park. However Ian’s top priority was his work and so in 1969 another transfer with the Wales found Ian in Sydney where he joined the N.S.W. Australian Football League Umpires from 1970 to 1973. These were the most successful years. Seven finals including the Grand Final in 1972 between Western Suburbs and East Sydney and the interstate game between Qld and N.S.W. are the highlights of Ian’s career.

Yet another transfer in 1973 found Ian back in Melbourne. A brief season with the V.F.A. and Ian was back with the V.F.L.U.A. in 1975. Ian claims the major difference he noted in his six year absence was the large number of new faces. Ian has trained at Caulfield since 1975 and has continued the track’s reputation by umpiring four V.C.F.L. Finals.

However, after twenty years of umpiring, 147 V.C.F.L. games, the oldest running veteran at the age of 41 years has had his moments.

In 1973 Ian was appointed to the Trumper Oval for the Grand Final replay, an honour for the previous year’s Grand Final Umpire. However confronting Ian as he approached the changing rooms was the largest banner of all – EAST vs SONNEMANN. Even the local bookies refused bets. The result?…..Sonnemann won again.

The mild-mannered, unflappable, conservative gentleman has also not been beyond:

– Fisticuffs with local goal umpires at Gunbower, “Chicken” vs Sonnemann, saved by George Lamont.

– Inebriation in 1976 on the Tatars trip with George Lamont and Merv Hindson.

– Missing trains at Keith.

– Hitchhiking home from Benalla.

– Raiding quince trees in the Wimmera.

– Assisting drunks at Korumburra.

– Gate-crashing the home of the Kootamundra (sic?) Secretary at 2.30 Sunday morning.

But who could blame the gentleman who trained in the company of Hafey, Brown, Bennet, Leggett, Gale and Co. in the late Caulfield group.

lan realizes his innings is coming to an end. His final ambitions are to complete his 150th V.C.F.L. game and his 10 years’ service with the V.P.L.U.A. When the day of reckoning finally comes, Ian is looking forward to spending more time with his lovely wife Ann and three year o1d son Mark. Perhaps a touch of gardening, lawn bowls and a hit of tennis. An evening at the Burwood residence is all that is required to experience the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Sonnemann family – a touch of the country air.”

Another who was particularly involved in the administration of the NSW Australian Football League in the late 1970s was Dorelle Isaac nee Hyman who passed away on November 15, 2019, age 76 years.

Dorelle was the Secretary of the league in 1977-78. She worked in a volunteer capacity when the then league Secretary was no longer required then eventually put on the payroll. She held that position she held until her Marriage in November 1977.  Her previous employment was the Private Secretary to Robert Clyde Packer, the Joint Managing Director of the Australian Consolidated Press and the Channel Nine Network, this proved invaluable as she had connections with the journalists and Producers.

Umpire Assaults

Umpires over the years have been the target of thugs, abuse and unnecessary violence.  While this might have occurred Australia wide, Sydney certainly did have its share of it.  Thankfully, certainly the violence towards umpires appears to have been relatively stamped out.

Possibly the most infamous attack was on central umpire, John Leber on the day after ANZAC Day in 1953 at Trumper Park.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported it on page 1 on 27 April as:

Spectator Knocks Out Football Match Umpire A spectator jumped the playing fence and knocked the central umpire, Jack Leber, unconscious during the Australian Rules foot-ball match between Eastern Suburbs and Newtown at Trumper Park yesterday. Then the spectator walked unhindered off the field and out of the ground. The man attacked Leber soon after a fight by players on both sides during the third quarter. All but six players were involved in the fight in the centre of the field. The fight lasted at least three minutes, with Leber, the two boundary umpires and both goal umpires trying to separate the players. From the second quarter many of Leber’s decisions had been hooted by the crowd of 4,000. During the third quarter spell when both teams were resting and Leber was standing with the boundary and goal umpires in the centre of the field, a coatless spectator jumped the fence. He walked over to Leber and knocked him down unconscious.
St John Ambulance men treated Leber for several minutes before he recovered. A boundary umpire, Joe Armstrong, who is a leading central umpire, offered to take over the match, but Leber carried on after the game had been delayed about six minutes. The ground manager, Mr. Jack Ross, called the police, but the game was in progress when they arrived. After the match Leber collapsed in the dressing-rooms and had to receive first-aid treatment again. He nearly collapsed again under the shower. The president of the N.S.W. League, Mr Les Taylor, said the league would prosecute the attacker if sufficient information became available. After the match, which Eastern Suburbs won by 19-16 (130) to 6-10 (46), the opposing captains, Fred Pemberton (Eastern Suburbs) and Jack Armstrong (Newtown) were reported over the fighting incident.

Fortunately the offender was located and subsequently charged. (see article)

John Leber was a great guy.  Initially he played with Newtown before enlisting for WWII.  When stationed near Melbourne in the army, he wrote to the secretary of the Fitzroy Club and asked for a game.  They gave him a run in the seconds for a couple of weeks, but he didn’t set the world on fire.

He was also instrumental in setting up the Boystown Club near Engadine and was one who formed the Sutherland Club in the 1960s.

John worked for TAA (a National Airline of some note) and besides getting the company to annually advertise in the Sydney Football Record, he arranged for cut price travel for NSW interstate teams.

You can read other articles of Sydney umpire assaults here:



– 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.