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



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.

Inside Football Articles

1986 Inside Football Banner smallWe have made a great discovery from 1986 following a donation by committeeman, Ian Wright of a number of 1986 & 87 copies of Inside Football.

Inside Football is a newspaper styled weekly publication in the winter and monthly in the off-season containing mostly news from the AFL.  Other states and competitions also receive a mention and such has been the case since the publication’s beginnings decades ago.

NSW normally had a column published in each issue and the editor had to look long and hard to find someone with enough local knowledge to become the regular contributor.  Names that come to mind include John Armstrong, who had a long association with the Newtown club and Rod Gillett who was involved with the North Coast and New England Leagues as well as an involvement at Wagga and in Sydney.  Both of these writers also had an association with the NSW Football League at one time or another.  The issues the Society has were written by leading Sydney University player and president, Paul Mulvey.

We have managed to isolate the NSW columns from the latter part of 1986 and have posted them on the site.  Click here to read.

We will be adding those of the 1987 season that we have in the next few weeks.

1987-04-15 Inside Football NSW Staff thumbnailThe last August copy of 1986 contained details of the former very strong Newtown Club’s last ever game. You can read the results from that last round here.  A quick perusal shows that the only person still involved is central umpire, Frank Kalayzich and that was 28 years ago!1986-08-28 Inside Football p.18 - Newtown's last game thumbnail  Good on you Frank, you deserve more recognition.

When the 1987 season dawned, Inside Football published images from a jumper manufacturer advertising their product with members of the NSWAFL Development Staff modelling their product. Can you guess the Sydney Swans players’ names while the lone female is Linda Blackburn, who was then the only female working in the League’s Office.

The magazine is still published and is now owned by Radio Station SEN, Melbourne’s Leading Sporting Broadcaster in Melbourne.

If you have access to further past copies of Inside Football we would be happy to receive scanned pdf copies of the NSW columns correctly tagged.  You can also contact us here for further information.