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.

What Happened in 1963

1963 Neil Wright - Wests coach smallAll years in Sydney football are different but 50 years ago, 1963 just appeared to be that little bit different.

A year after 2UW broadcast the VFL Grand Final in Sydney in what can only be described as a very unique media event, the league started the year five hundred pounds ($1,000) in the red.  Prior to this the league finished 1962 with a deficit of five hundred and forty three pounds ($1086.00), four hundred and one pounds ($802.00) in 1961 and three hundred and seventy five pounds ($750.00) in 1960. This may not sound like much money today but back then, they were almost insurmountable figures for a struggling code.

Former Western Suburbs and Bankstown player, Rhys Giddey had been appointed the league’s secretary working out of a small building at Trumper Park.  He went on to assume a fulltime appointment in the position.

1963 followed at least one season of administrative turmoil and because the previous (honorary) secretary had been summarily dismissed in mid January (1963) officials failed to get hold of any of the financial records until nearly three months in so a set of unaudited accounts were presented to members at the AGM.

The league certainly had their problems.

On the club scene, calls for a two division system were ignored.  The Liverpool and Bankstown clubs amalgamated which reduced the competition to eleven clubs, necessitating a bye and there were suggestions that two other unnamed clubs should also amalgamate. It didn’t happen.

However the league engineered the draw so that the top teams from 1962 played each other twice as did the lower five clubs.  Top and bottom sides then only had to meet on one occasion.  This ensured the presentation of the game overall at a generally higher standard with the lower clubs meeting under more equitable conditions.

Western Suburbs were hailed as the glamour club upon the construction of their licensed premises fronting onto Picken Oval was complete.

The club signed a former VFA player, ruckman Neil Wright (pictured) as their coach on a four figure fee, something unheard of in Sydney football.  This is when St George paid their ex-VFL coach two hundred and fifty pounds ($500) and South Sydney paid theirs, one hundred pounds ($200).  Wests also openly announced that it would pay both their first AND reserve grade players.  Another exceptional occurrence in the league.

In total the Magpies had fifteen new players from interstate and country areas.  They also afforded the top dressing their Picken Oval ground for the season.

Then on the eve of the finals Wests were hit with a savage blow when coach Wright was admitted to Prince Henry Hospital with hepatitis.  His place was taken by former club captain, Peter Kuschert.

Meanwhile, Hurstville Council decided to call for tenders for a large scale development of Olds Park and the St George Club was one which submitted a proposal for a successful 21 year lease for the site.

Rain forced the postponement of all round 4 matches in late April

The Parramatta club got themselves into strife in a match against St George in early May when they played 16 unregistered players.  These were all former players with Liverpool which had amalgamated with Bankstown and their registration was locked into the last placed, Liverpool/Bankstown Club.  Parramatta were fined a hefty fifty pounds ($100).

In May, St George took the opportunity to travel to Newcastle on their bye weekend where they defeated the Hamilton Club 8.15 (63) to 6.11 (47).  A week later they scored an impressive 15.15 (105) to 0.2 (2) win over Eastern Suburbs at Trumper Park, however in mid June they too had a shock when a last minute goal by Sydney University’s John Weissel gave the students a rare win over the Saints.

The East’s loss was their greatest in the club’s history and many attributed the atrocious weather conditions as one of the reasons for their poor performance.

Most fans chuckled quietly in round 6 when Parramatta included an untried 199.5cm American, Harvey Haddock in their side to meet Eastern Suburbs.  Hadock was a sailor on the USS aircraft carrier, Coral Sea which was visiting Sydney.  Easts won 17.7 (109) to 13.14 (92).  Hadcock battled to get a kick.

NSW played three interstate games that year and lost the lot.  A two goal loss to Queensland in Brisbane, an eleven point defeat by the ACT in Canberra and an eight goal loss to Combined Universities on the June long weekend.

On 14 July, Eastern Suburbs backman, John Grey was charged with kicking boundary umpire Leo Farley in a game against St George.  Grey was outed by the Tribunal for five years.

Burly Newtown captain-coach, Ellis Noack won the league’s goalkicking with 55 majors while versatile, Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, who played most of the season in a back brace, won the Phelan Medal.

Sharrock was instrumental in his club’s grand final victory over Newtown before a record crowd at Trumper Park.  League secretary, Rhys Giddey gave the attendance as 11,337 but admitted years later that he may well over liberally over-estimated the number.

As in many of Sydney’s grand finals, the 1963 version was no exception  It opened sensationally with an all-in brawl after an incident in the ruck snowballed and players from all parts of the field rushed to join in the melee.

Players from both sides stood trading punches until central umpire Mal Lee together with goal and boundary umpires separated them.

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock, in later years a leading figure in the Bankstown Sports club, was reported for striking and Wests John Griffiths was charged with kicking.  Wests won 14.14 (98) to Newtown’s 12.16 (88)  after the Magpies were down by nine points at the final change.

The league cancelled the proposed 15 September two hundred and fifty pound ($500), Premiers v The Rest Game and replaced it with a final of the post season knock-out competition between St George and South Sydney.

Not to spoil their poor record, the league again finished the 1963 season in the red.  This time though it was a much more manageable figure of thirty seven pounds ($74.00)

1963 – 2

Sherrin angle with 1963 grey backgroundAll seasons in Sydney football are different but 50 years ago, 1963, just appeared to be that little bit different again.

A year after 2UW broadcast the VFL Grand Final in Sydney in what can only be described as a very unique media event, the league started 1963 five hundred pounds ($1,000) in the red.  Prior to this the league finished 1962 with a deficit of five hundred and forty three pounds ($1086.00), four hundred and one pounds ($802.00) in 1961 and three hundred and seventy five pounds ($750.00) in 1960. This may not sound like much money today but back then, they were almost insurmountable figures for a struggling code.

Former Western Suburbs and Bankstown player, Rhys Giddey had been appointed the league’s secretary working out of a small building at Trumper Park.  He went on to assume a fulltime appointment in the position.

1963 followed at least one season of administrative turmoil and because the previous (honorary) secretary had been summarily dismissed in mid January (1963) then officials failed to get hold of any of the financial records until nearly three months in, so a set of unaudited accounts were presented to members at the AGM.

The league certainly had their problems.

On the club scene, calls for a two division system were ignored.  The Liverpool and Bankstown clubs amalgamated which reduced the competition to eleven clubs.  This necessitated a bye and there were suggestions that two other unnamed clubs should also amalgamate.It didn’t happen.

However the league engineered the draw so that the top teams from 1962 played each other twice as did the lower five clubs.  Top and bottom sides then only had to meet on one occasion.  This ensured the presentation of the game at a generally higher standard overall with the lower clubs “meeting under more equitable condi1963 Neil Wright - Wests coach smalltions.”

Western Suburbs were hailed as the glamor club upon the construction of the only Sydney licensed premises fronting onto Picken Oval.

The club signed a former VFA player, ruckman Neil Wright as their coach on a four figure fee, something unheard of in Sydney football.  This was when St George paid their ex-VFL coach two hundred and fifty pounds ($500) and South Sydney paid theirs, one hundred pounds ($200).  Wests also openly announced that it would pay both their first AND reserve grade players.  Another exceptional occurrence in the league and made it difficult for other clubs.

In total the Magpies had fifteen new players from interstate and country areas in 1963.  They also afforded the top dressing of their Picken Oval ground in preparation for the season.

Then on the eve of the finals Wests were hit with a savage blow when coach Wright was admitted to Prince Henry Hospital with hepatitis.  His place was taken by former club captain, Peter Kuschert.

Meanwhile, Hurstville Council decided to call for tenders for a large scale development of Olds Park and the St George Club was one which submitted a proposal for a 21 year lease for the site.

Rain forced the postponement of all round 4 matches in late April.

The Parramatta club got themselves into strife in a match against St George in early May when they played 16 unregistered players.  These were all former players of the Liverpool club which had since amalgamated with Bankstown and the players’ registration was locked in with the last placed, Liverpool/Bankstown Club.  Parramatta were fined a hefty fifty pounds ($100).

In May, St George took the opportunity to travel to Newcastle on their bye weekend where they defeated the Hamilton Club 8.15 (63) to 6.11 (47).  A week later they scored an impressive 15.15 (105) to 0.2 (2) win over Eastern Suburbs at Trumper Park, however in mid June they too had a shock when a last minute goal by Sydney University’s John Weissel gave the students a rare win over the Saints.

The East’s loss was their greatest in the club’s history and many attributed the atrocious weather conditions as one of the reasons for their poor performance.  It was a poor season for Easts, finishing second last.

Most fans chuckled quietly in round 6 when Parramatta included an untried 199.5cm American, Harvey Haddock in their side to meet Eastern Suburbs.  Hadock was a sailor on the USS aircraft carrier, Coral Sea which was visiting Sydney.  Easts won 17.7 (109) to 13.14 (92).  Hadcock battled to get a kick.

NSW played three interstate games that year and lost the lot.  There was a two goal loss to Queensland in Brisbane, an eleven point defeat by the ACT in Canberra and an eight goal loss to Combined Universities on the June long weekend at Trumper Park.

On 14 July, Eastern Suburbs backman, John Grey was charged with kicking boundary umpire Leo Farley in a game against St George.  Grey was subsequently outed by the Tribunal for five years.

Burly Newtown captain-coach, Ellis Noack won the league’s goalkicking with 55 majors while versatile, Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, who played most of the season in a back brace, won the Phelan Medal.

Sharrock was instrumental in his club’s grand final victory over Newtown before a record crowd at Trumper Park.  League secretary, Rhys Giddey gave the attendance as 11,337 but admitted years later that he may well have over liberally over-estimated the figure.

As in many of Sydney’s grand finals, the 1963 version was no exception  It opened sensationally with an all-in brawl after an incident in the ruck snowballed and players from all parts of the field rushed to join in the melee.

Players from both sides stood trading punches until central umpire Mal Lee together with goal and boundary umpires separated them.

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock, in later years a leading figure in the Bankstown Sports club, was reported for striking and Wests John Griffiths was charged with kicking.  Wests won 14.14 (98) to Newtown’s 12.16 (88)  after the Magpies were down by nine points at the final change.

The league cancelled the proposed 15 September two hundred and fifty pound ($500), Premiers v The Rest game and replaced it with a final of the post season knock-out competition between St George and South Sydney.

Not to spoil their poor record, the league again finished the 1963 season again in the red.  This time though it was a much more manageable figure of thirty seven pounds ($74.00)