– 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


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.