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



Mac Uni – 50 Years and Still There – and same umpire!!

                      Umpire from Mac Uni’s 1970 game,
                 Jim McSweeney tossing the 1911 penny

In the early 1970s the NSW Football League were at a loss what to do with the new clubs that began to emerge, certainly in Sydney.

In 1969 Western Suburbs, Newtown, North Shore and a burgeoning Balmain headed the senior list, by miles.

Sydney Naval were on their last legs and South Sydney (both original Sydney Clubs) were getting defeated by a cricket score each week.  These two were at the bottom of the table in firsts and seconds.

Then there were the Universities.  Sydney University had swapped places with UNSW from firsts to reserve grade which earnt them a premiership,  UNSW went no-where in the top grade finishing just above Sydney Naval.

So 1970 presented a problem.  The Metropolitan Australian National Football Association (MANFA – the old second division) went out of business 20 odd years before however league officials were reluctant to engage a new second division into the Sydney competition, but the pressure was there.

In the end Sydney Uni, UNSW & South Sydney teams were slotted into the senior division reserve grade along with a new contender, Macquarie University.  Later St Ives, Warringah, Salesians and Penshurst made up the new Sydney Districts Association along with minor teams from some of the senior clubs.  Almost ludicrously that year, 8 teams played in First Grade, with 12 teams in Reserve Grade – such was the skill differential.  So on numerous occasions the seconds did not play at the same venue as the first grade, déjà vu perhaps?

  A Younger Jim McSweeney

Macquarie University’s first opponent (ever) in their initial season was South Sydney; a relegated club trying to make the best of it.  That was 1970.

In that first ever competition match on 4th April 1970 against South Sydney, at Erskineville Oval, Jim McSweeney was the Field Umpire. In those times it was just one Central Umpire. South Sydney went on to beat Macquarie Uni 13-13 (91) to 3-6 (24).

However fast forward to last weekend when the Sydney AFL Season finally got their 2020 season underway.

Macquarie University AFL Club celebrating their 50th anniversary were opposed to last year’s premiers, Southern Power.

To commemorate the 50 years, Macquarie Uni invited the 80 plus Jim, a member of the Football History Society, to conduct the coin toss.  Macquarie are now in Platinum Division and the game was a rematch of the 2019 Grand Final which Southern Power won.

In a very tightly contested and exciting game, this time played at Macquarie’s home ground, resulted in the lead changing twice in the last quarter. It was Macquarie who reversed the result of last year’s Grand Final, winning by 4 points 5-7 (37) to 4-9 (33).

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.

1974 Umpires’ Boycott – by Jim McSweeney

     A younger
Jim McSweeney

Here is an article by Society member, Jim McSweeney, a former umpire in the Sydney competition and later in Masters Rules.  He was an official with the St George Junior Association and also umpired in that competition.  The article provides details of a ‘boycott’, not a strike, by Sydney umpires in 1974.  This was a period when Sydney Newspapers frequently published articles of happenings in the code in the city (sadly no more), so we are able to bring you associated newspapers articles.

“I am sure that over the years’ clubs have expressed concern over certain umpires and expressed a wish that these umpires no be appointed to their matches. No doubt on some occasions these wishes may well have been granted.

However, in early July 1974, the fourth year of my Presidency, the Umpires Association was informed by the League that the Western Suburbs Club had informed them that they would not play if Umpire Earl Beeck was appointed to any of their matches. No reasons were given for this ultimatum.

This led to a very long and heavily debated Umpires’ Association meeting and brought back to me memories of the 1961 Strike. There were many actions proposed and debated. A large number were very determined to withdraw all umpiring services until this ultimatum was withdrawn.

After much debate and different proposals considered it was agreed that all clubs should not be penalised because of the action of one. It was then unanimously resolved that Association Members would not umpire any Western Suburbs matches whist this ultimatum was in place. This decision was passed to the League as soon as possible after the meeting.

Western Suburbs were due to play Southern Districts the following weekend at Rosedale Oval, Warwick Farm and no Association umpires were appointed. It was an interesting lead up, because a number of people associated with the home club were involved with junior football in the area. One of their first grade players also umpired local junior football. The Umpires’ executive were required to talk with these people and request that they support the Umpires in this matter. They all agreed to fall in line. The match went ahead with Bill Hart, the 48 year old League President, along with vice president Doug Bouch initially set down as umpires. (I’d love to see those two running around the paddock, Bill may have represented the state in 1948 and Doug Bouch won the Sanders Medal in 1959, but please … it can be, no it is, hard work out there in the centre and Doug was one who loved a drink on a hot day).   However the two with the whistles was later altered to Wests president and former VFA player, John Donovan and Southern Districts official, Arthur Clark taking on the officiating duties.

Following this, the ultimatum was withdrawn and everything went back to as normal as it can be in the Football world.”

Top of the table Western Suburbs had no trouble defeating ‘Districts in the game by over fourteen goals to continue their unbeaten run.

Pleasant Christmas Function

A number of members took advantage of attending the Society’s Christmas party at the Magpie Sports Club yesterday.  They were joined by Simon Wilson and Jonathan Drennan from AFLNSWACT.

One of the attendees was former umpire, Jim McSweeney who at 84 officiated in his final match this year in a Masters Carnival.  There were several other former umpires at the function including Chris Huon and Bill Allen.

A number of other members gave their apologies however they missed a great function where the atmosphere was keen and a number of old football stories were told.

Members will be pleased to know that this year’s journal, Time On, is currently being prepared and will be posted out prior to Christmas.  The issue includes many interesting stories of former happenings in the sport over the past 130 or so seasons and is a great read.


– 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.

– Committee Re-elected

A reasonable turnout at Magpie Sports yesterday saw those on the committee who stood for election, re-appointed to their positions.

The include:

  • President                      –       Ian Granland
  • Vice President             –       Paul Macpherson
  • Secretary                      –        Heather White
  • Treasurer                      –        John Addison
  • Committee Persons –        Jenny Hancock, Tom Mahon, Ian Wright & Gus McKernan

A comprehensive annual report was tabled and the president moved through the document explaining its contents.  He also commended the members of the committee for their commitment and contribution over the past 12 months.  He also said that while four persons stood as Committee there was provision for the addition of an extra person with whom he had discussions with in recent weeks.

Following the meeting a Special General Meeting was held to approve the changes to the constitution.  These now bring the organisation in line with the updated requirements of the Incorporated Associations Act and the rules and guidelines set by the Department of Fair Trading.  A copy of this had been posted on this website.

After the formalities, attendees were invited to inspect the facilities in the Society’s room at Magpie Sports.  This is where a photograph was taken of some and include from left: Mark Spooner, Tom Mahon (standing),  Ian Allan (son of Bill),  Ian Granland, Bill Allan, Jim McSweeney, Ian Wright.

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.


1970s Sydney Umpires smallWow, have we unearthed a plethora of photos from the umpiring fraternity from the late sixties into the eighties.

Committeeman, Ian Wright contacted former umpiring guru, Jim McSweeney who seconded former Society member, Chris Huon, to help identify a mysterious umpiring group from what we thought was the 1970s – attached.

The image was taken at Erskineville Oval, the umpires’ training venue at the time, on Monday 9 March 1970, where VFL Assistant Umpires’ Advisor, Norm Grant visited Sydney to present lectures and assist umpires in the finer points of their particular discipline.  He also visited the South Coast.  Umpires trained on Mondays and Wednesdays.

His week long visit was funded by the Rothmans National Sport Foundation, an organisation set up by the manufacturers of Rothmans Cigarettes to promote the development and education of various sports.  It is fair to say that the local league received a reasonable amount of assistance from the Foundation.

Fortunately, both McSweeney and Huon were able to identify 90% of those in this picture which we have since named.

The umpires’ coach in 1970 was Brian O’Donoghue, who also acted as field umpire.  In the photo is Graham Allomes, who is reputed to have boundary umpired in more games than any other person in senior league football and is identified in the centre row.

While the majority in the photograph have been identified there are some that have not.  If you can assist, please let us know.