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: