Confessions of a Maggot

He's the maggot on the right

He’s the maggot on the right


I am a maggot. I have umpired footy for 30 plus years, and with juniors and seniors would be well over a thousand games. May have even made the odd mistake or two!


I umpired with the SANFL in ’83, but a combination of being diabolical at bouncing the ball and not being great re the politics side of umpiring (not a strength of mine in life in any thing) saw me fall short of the mark. Why in the hell we have the bounce, it is ridiculous it is the only sport in the world where you are required to be good at something which has nothing to do with the game to reach the elite level! I then went out and played for Adelaide Uni for 12 years before returning to umpiring. I umpired with the SAAFL (Amateur footy) for 10 plus years in that position and am a life member of the association. When the SAAFL brought in club umpiring where each club has to supply an umpire, the great man Chocka Bloch asked me to be a club umpire for Adelaide Uni how could I refuse?


During this time there have been some funny moments, and not being the quiet and shy type, with the odd bit of controversy, in no particular order I wish to recount:


1. A player who from down the beach I had reported making the statement “I have just got out of jail, it would be worth it to go back to kill this prick”, that was nerve racking to say the least and I appreciated the support of the Adelaide Uni team manager who happens to be a lawyer for their support (he got 18 months suspension).


2. An elderly spectator in a game out North, not happy with my performance, trying to hit with me with his walking stick and umbrella. The same team manager above and a friend encouraging him to hit me ironically helped as that wasn’t the reaction he was expecting.


3. When going to give the votes after umpiring a div 3 game I have given a Wanganeen votes and Mick Platten had played (John’s brother), the beers Mick bought me afterwards did not influence me whatsoever in any way to give him a vote it was the grade in which Chocka read the votes and did the medal count in general, so I wrote on the votes slip (considering the names who got the votes) do I get AFL umpire match payments, to my horror at the end of the year Chocka got switched and did a different grade medal count. A letter arrived in the post, “Umpire Malcolm Ashwood we remind you of the seriousness of giving votes and do not consider what you wrote on the voting slip appropriate”. Geez no sense of humour.


4. When umpiring a scum game a couple of years ago, the other umpire was struggling to say the least. After paying a holding the ball in which Barry Robran and Greg Williams combined wouldn’t have got rid of it, I tried to help and advise him. To say he did not take kindly is an understatement and a slanging match resulted in which he tried to send me off the ground. I wouldn’t say it was either of our finest hour but it gave the players and the few spectators at the ground a hell of a lot of entertainment and is still well and truly spoken about today.


5. A player running in to an open goal, the kick goes off the side of his boot and out of bounds on the full. I blow the whistle, your kick Richard Foster, and then I hear a groaning noise coming from behind me and I think what in the hell have I missed. I turn around, Gary Krievs nearby is laughing and says Book sorry I can’t help it after the guy missed the goal he has punched the ground and broken his wrist.


6. Adelaide Uni gun player Wes LeGrand has won 10 SAAFL medals and there were allegations he was being favored re votes, so Amateur league sent out an official to watch.


He dutifully reported back to Amateur league, yep I have a real problem with Rulebook. To say this may have excited a couple of amateur league officials is again a understatement, he replies yeah Rulebook has crucified him, he should have won at least 3 more. Said officials slump back in their chairs muttering sweet nothings about me.


7. The merciless sledging of an opposition player by Andrew Bell playing for Flinders Park was brilliant, it was like being front and centre and being paid for witnessing a comedy performance it was a privilege to be part of. The siren went,the Ighies guy turned to Belly and said you have thrashed me both during the game and verbally, Belly replied I better buy you a beer, true amateur league footy!


8. Adelaide Uni long standing and Australian amateur league goal kicking record holder Darren Graetz is playing Full Forward, and Edwardstown kick a point. Jerk is jogging (yes it did happen!) towards the other end making hand signals.
Their full back is yelling “pick em up on the kick out they have a secret method”. Jerk replies “no you bloody idiot, I am signaling to Clarkey goal umpiring re our syndicate bet for the day and to hurry up and put it on”. The FGA side had a number of punting lunatics and after the game coming off the ground that side still knew the result of every race in Australia, why the TAB was ever sold considering profits it made from Stump and Jerk is one of life’s mysteries!


I reckon I can go on and on so this may be Part 1. In the hurly burly, win at all costs mentality of the elite level, we should always remember there are far more people of both sexes having a kick and a catch and that it is meant to be fun!


I would have loved to have umpired Troy Chaplin!!!


  1. Sean Philpot says

    Very nice book, quite the giggle at the confession of maybe getting a decision or two wrong in your time!

  2. Well played Sir. Reckon you might’ve conveniently omitted several of the more controversial incidents. A certain goal umpiring decision springs to mind..?

  3. charlie brown says

    Great read Malcolm. My personal favorite is number 8. Not sure any Blacks team I played in had any “Secret methods”. We didn’t need any other game plan as it known these days or inspiration cos we were playing under the perennial glow of the Club Legend!

  4. Where would we be without maggots? As a player I hated them but once I umpired I instantly realized how difficult it is

  5. Dan Sergeant says

    You threatened to report me whilst acting as a runner for the blacks in a game against north Croydon. If I remember the line you use was “University runner you have spent far too long in the field to be just running messages, and stop sledging the opposition back pocket.” All this happened whilst blue loo Bryson ran warmup a around the boundary calling said player a weak prick. If I recall Cam had been hit once to often in the head by him.

  6. I’m pretty sure you officiated a game involving a large man of Indian-Fijian extraction streaking the entire length of the field on the oval next to the zoo. Said streaker disappeared down the banks of the Torrens never to be seen again that afternoon.

  7. Adam Sheridan says

    I remember vividly your slanging match with that other umpire. He was an A Grade wanker.

    You still owe me for that kicking in danger.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Sean I thought you would like that.Daddsy it’s called selective memory and yes not my best moment.Charlie it was v funny and surprise surprise,Jerk kicked a bag and the FGA won easily and it is a claim to fame that I can make having played with the legend.Gilbo you and I were like a lot of players who umpiring would have been good for when playing to remind ourselves hoe hard it was.Scrote I was a amateur league appointed umpire that day so I had to sound threatening and Can was not happy that day.Duncs I had forgotten that 1 he was jogging in the right direction to the zoo as we all felt inadequate in comparison.Adam the least enjoyable umpiring experience of my life thank you

  9. Wonderful collection Malcolm – truly the stuff of legends.

  10. One of the best judges of football talent going around… and not a bad umpire either :)

  11. Martin Rumsby says

    An amusing read, Malcolm. My connection with your umpiring career centres around open-age school boy competitions where you had an excellent eye for talent and encouraged the boys to play well. Many players from Unley High and Modbury High played in matches controlled by you. Thank you for being available to umpire these mid-week matches and giving these young men a chance to play for their school.

  12. hahaha

  13. Cabbage Patch Kid says

    You left out getting cleaned up by the PHOS Camden Div 1 Res full back who went by the name “Conan” one day down at PHOS Williams reserve (the sun never seemed to shine when we played at that windswept dung heap). Whilst I was concerned for your welfare once I realised you were ok it was quite amusing – the PHOS umpire claiming to not have seen the incident was fanciful as well! Funny times.

    I also recall on my debut for the blacks against Edwardsclown in div 1 Res receiving a free kick with the clowns defender not a happy Chappy / as he threw the footy back to me on the mark on edge of the centre square I shouldered arms a’la Mark Taylor to see it fly by – upon my appeal to you for incorrectly handing me back the footy the subsequent penalty brought me within striking distance for 6 points. The defender was really upset after this which I rather enjoyed. A great start at the worlds greatest footy club – even if sleepy and terry never bothered to watch the 2’s!

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Very enjoyable Rulebook, great yarns, look forward to part 2!

  15. Campbell says

    Great article and some very funny incidents you’ve had there

  16. Love your work Book – there’s a series in this for sure.

  17. Dave Brown says

    You make an umpiring mistake, Malcolm? Hard to believe. You’re being far too modest. I’m sure you’ve made plenty!

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Don and Wes appreciated.Martin injury stopped a couple of those,Uley guys in particular from getting a crack at the top level unfortunately,they were enjoyable days.Thanks Haz at least I gave you a giggle leaving the Queens Head.Cabbage patch hadn’t forgotten just struggling for the appropriate non liable words,I reckon your being a bit tough on me the ball went pass you quicker than a Thommo bouncer in his prime.Thanks Campbell,TC a distinct possibility.Thanks Dave and yep.

  19. Magnificent RB. I reckon there is a book in this.

  20. Shayne Shepherdson says

    Always a sign of good health when you can poke fun at yourself ?

    Some vivid memories there too. Just one question, who is this Wes you speak of ?

  21. I have no words. Except for those, obviously. And these – I laughed until I stopped.

  22. Jeff Milton says

    Very amusing. I am sure there are many more incidents you could add to the list.

  23. Troy Hancox says

    Very good rule book.
    Andrew Bell. Seinfeld style
    Classic come back “I better buy you a beer”
    Love it Dinga !!!!

    The cricket field had a heap of classic one liners too ha ha ha ha great times

  24. Yvette Wroby says

    Great Monday morning read. Thanks heaps. Keep ’em coming

  25. Good stuff book, reckon there are plenty more you could roll out. Love that Wes Legrand story!

  26. Good read Rulebook. I have one question though. Were you ever conflicted when you had to umpire a game between the Blacks & Norwood Union? Be honest now.

  27. That question above was mine BTW!

  28. John Warhurst says

    Very enjoyable. Great read!

  29. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dips definitely at least 1 more Inc the day I sang memories to Brenton Klaebe.thanks Shayne isn’t he that krazy beach run bloke ? Thanks IMS and Milts yep more to come.Troy a v funny day,Belly as good on the lip ad any one I have met.Thanks Yvette appreciated.Thanks Jags.Jim not at all I enjoy it when I no more of the opposition than I do ad uni guys which has been mainly umpiring,PAC and Pembroke having coached at both schools it helps eliminate the biased accusations,what is fantastic is when uni have a hot head who gives away dumb free kicks as we no they don’t grow on trees.Thanks John thanks folks

  30. Very entertaining book keep em coming

  31. Go the Book! This article just made me recall one of your regularly used, boundary line calls when watching an AUFC kicked football sail directly over the goal post with only a point awarded to The Blacks…..”Bad goal umpiring”! Now there’s a lead-in to at least one more controversial Rulebook umpiring story.

  32. Really enjoyable read my favorite is the Jerk secret play story pure gold

  33. matt watson says

    As a fellow maggot, I loved what I read.
    You reminded me of my time in white, from juniors to seniors.
    Getting paid to be abused by the crowd and by the players.
    No friends.
    There were a few games when I decided it was safer not to have a drink with the players, despite umpiring very well.
    Well done on your career.

  34. Rule book- I enjoyed your collection of yarns. I remember this legendary exchange from Kapunda v Tanunda after an umpire blew his whistle and awarded a free to the opposition.

    Player: Hey, ump, bad decision. You dxxkhead!
    Umpire: Right, number xx, you’re reported!
    Player: You can’t report me for that.
    Umpire: Why not?
    Player: Because I’m telling the truth!

    As Dips said there’s a book in this.

  35. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Scott,Gordo not my finest( David Ball should have kicked the goal tho)Thanks Jugs it was hilarious and Jerk let him no each sausage roll he kicked.Matt I did a bit of both and a couple of times deliberately went in the bar to piss a couple of obnoxious home officials off thanks,Matt.Mickey thank you and not bad that what did the umpire come back with ?

  36. Great stuff, Rulebook.

    Most enjoyable….this could turn into a mini-series.

  37. marcus smith says

    Hilarious Rulebook ,hahahahaha.
    Yes i too hate the bounce and cant figure out what spectacle it is supposed to B ?Just throw the thing up !!!!
    Some funny yarns mate you should put them together and write a book.

  38. Riverboy says

    Very funny mate.
    I’d say you have probably got a lot more stories hidden away.
    You should put em all together and write a book, I’d happily part with some hard earned for a good laugh.
    Keep up the good work.

  39. Nice Book, like every full forward I’m still waiting for all those free kicks you owe me.
    Why is it that umpires only give every 10th one as soon as you line up in front of the sticks, Im sure there are some stats somewhere that will back me up. After all its the hardest job on the ground! As for umpiring, not so much. Still without umpires there is anarchy and truth be know often with you there was anarchy, not sure where I was going with that. Play on!

  40. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Smokie,Marcus and River boy appreciate your kind words.Jerk it is incredible that I played with you in a premiership side in 86 when you weighed 67 kilos you certainly grew over time your sledging of the opposition was always entertaining you certainly didn’t lose any battle with words and yes I will leave the last part alone thank you

  41. Umpires play a crucial role in amateur sport so well done on being involved for so long. Is it true you may favour the Blacks in some games????

  42. Funny stuff.
    Would’ve paid good coin to watch you umpire Chaplin!

  43. Rick Kane says

    Piss funny Mr Rulebook. As Dips said, there’s a book in this. Lovely reminder that umpiring is indeed part of the game, warts and all.

    A few weeks ago my son played in his U14s match. The next day he played in the local brass band for the ANZAC Day march, alongside one of the umpires from the game. The umpire’s dad (who also officiated for the Yarra JFL) and I discussed the game as we travelled into the city. It was a insightful and instructive discussion listening to an umpire’s perspective of the game and best players.

    Great observation about the bounce too.

  44. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nice work Malcolm-Rulebook,
    I’m picturing a book with illustrations that capture the expressions of how umps really feel about some players. Have you ever bounced the ball into your face?
    I only umpired cricket for two seasons, but gave up after I got into a fist fight with an abusive player. Kudos to your patience and love of the craft. Often a thankless task.

  45. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Raj thank you it is hard umpiring friends but contrary to public opinion no.Chris thanks geez I would have sledged the crap out of him.Thanks Rick appreciated always enjoy having conversations like you have mentioned.Phillip it would be a interesting book and yes( will be in next article) thank you !

  46. Love your sense of humour , Scant detail, just alluding to the absurdity of things. I could have kept reading on.

  47. Tom Martin says

    It’s been one of the truly outstanding careers, Book.

    Your dedication never ceased to impress me. It can’t have been easy for you to lock your golden retriever inside the car for the duration of the game each week, particularly in the mean streets surrounding a few of those Northern suburbs clubs.

    Some days I thought you might have been better off if you had actually taken the white cane out on the ground with you. Might have made it a bit easier to point out where the mark was with that officious vigour we had all come to expect. But you were always a stickler for health and safety, and the apparatus remained in its rightful place, leaning against the wall in a corner of the umpires’ change rooms with all the white canes of your colleagues.

    Your dicky knees probably deprived South Australian football of a dead-set Croweater legend. I always think of Rodney ‘Rocket’ Maynard for some reason. It could be the full body freckles, the ruddy complexion, possibly even the mullet in your early years. The only other tragedy of lost talent that could conceivably compare is that of the briefly great Darien O’Reilly.

    It’s astonishing to think that some of the people who have commented above might only know you from amateur league football and so may not even be aware of the big black pirate’s eye patch that you wear the rest of the week apart from Saturday.

    It’s just so fortunate for the great game that bung joints in the legs never seem to impede backwards momentum. In all my time in footy, no matter the ground or the teams that are playing, I’ve never seen anyone scuttle backwards with such graceful efficiency.

    I never once saw you stumble or fall. There were a couple of times maybe when all the spectators falling about laughing obscured my view but I still thought the way you carried yourself while spreadeagled in the mud was elegance personified. Your white shorts covered so much ground it was bloody obvious that you weren’t going anywhere, thank you very much. We all knew you were too proud to accept the slightest bit of assistance from any of the players running past, let alone those walking slowly close by. With a wave of your hand and a crisp one-liner you would typically just shoo them all further away.

    I thought it was a very nice touch the way that you would wait patiently until the next goal was kicked so that your fellow white maggot could be the one to do the honours, even though you probably knew that they would struggle to get you back to an upright position on their own without assistance. It was always the principle of the thing that mattered.

    And that’s why I’ll always respect you as an umpire, Malcolm, although I can’t exclude the possibility that having only played a handful of games in which you officiated may also have something to do with it.

  48. RB
    I had a laugh and good to see you can have a laugh at your own expenses.

  49. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Kate appreciated,TM gold as always and more importantly congrats re becoming a father for the 1st time,Percy I am sure will be a super star as well.Thankx AD and yep have to laugh at yourself

  50. Hey Rulebook, very amusing article. Do you remember the uni game (at Park 9 in the mid 80s I think) where the ump took a bit too much sledging for his own liking, put the ball under his arm and ran away?

  51. Rulebook

    I vote for a few elaborations and clarifications insofar as these incidents are concerned.

    Your homework is to tell the full story of No. 4 – including dialogue.

    I’m also interested in some of Bell’s better lines.

    Elaborating, and telling the yarns one at a time will make you a columnist at the Almanac.

    Happy to take suggestions from your thousands of readers.


  52. And one more thing:

    If anyone has stories of Rulebook bouncing the pig leather I’d love to hear them as well.

  53. I seem to recall an incident out at the Railways where you had to be separated from the opposition’s umpire because you two were drowning out my 3/4 time address, I think he came from the SAAFL too. I also remember elder Rocky locking himself in the umpires changing rooms after the match as well….

  54. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Grunter I remember the incident but I wasn’t playing..JTH I did let the other umpire no of my experience and tried to say nicely he could listen and learn which he didn’t take kindly to( I have opened the door for the scum to engage with there version and sledge me ) Trying to remember,Bellys exact lines he was commenting his own touches which there was plenty he did bring up the other ruckman X likeness to a
    welcome back cotter character.tyro that was one case where I got support from the amateur league want to leave that one at that thanks folks

  55. Dennis Floyd says

    Lol now i know why you like umpires so much Malcolm Ashwood, great read i had a few good chuckles

  56. Yuppy Uppy says

    M.Legrande 3 votes

  57. Ben Larsen-Smith says

    Loved this collection of amusing anecdotes throughout your career Rulebook, keep up the amazing work!

  58. James Roder says

    Can confirm that for at least a few years following a particularly bad-tempered game at what I’m reliably informed is referred to as “Bob Neil 2” “pulling a Malcolm” was a Payneham euphemism for a particularly perplexing decision made by the officialdom.

    Am pleased to confirm that we are now far more suspicious of our own umpires than you.

  59. Matt Zurbo says

    Rulebook! You ripper! What a dead set corker piece! (and ironic, as I wrote a piece on umpiring, but with the book edit, did not get time to hand it in for three weeks – not a scratch on yours though) Edit done. Great to finally be back reading your work, mate.

  60. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dennis,Yuppy there was 1 year when to say the most of Wes votes were from away games is a massive understatement.Thanks Ben.Rodes ironic that the game you mention at Bob Neil 2 I called in to
    Payneham to try and explain a rule to a Falcons player I wasn’t greeted warmly and left the current guy mmm.Thanks Matt appreciated

  61. Set yourself up nicely for a TM sledge with this story Rulebook. Good read.

  62. Yet to hear abt the Maggot No. 28’s confession of his enthusiastic umpiring in the recent Dogs Vs Crows game!! LOLOlo

  63. Great stories Malcolm.

  64. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Raf yes still waiting for,TMs sledge.Bec he was interesting to say the least,thanks,Peter appreciated

  65. Haha… Nice work rulebook!!

  66. Hadn’t seen this collection before, Malcolm. Very entertaining, especially the Ammo League stories – a department of the game that we need to hear from far more often than we do. Funny that you mention Troy Chaplin at the end. After being drafted by the Power in 2003, he began his career in SA with Sturt Reserves in 2004. We immediately realised that we had a player who did NOT lack for confidence, either in SANFL Reserves or League company. He played a fair bit for Sturt in those first 2 seasons and it’s fair to say that he gave coaches and supporters more than a few heart flutters. As a tall, running defender he loved to “take the game on” and would burst out of defence on spectacular rebound runs, taking bounces etc. All too often it would come unstuck, and Sturt coach “Sticks” Phillips would be tearing his hair out. Lucky for young Troy, Phil Carman was no longer coaching Sturt, or Chaplin may never have lived to go on to play 140 AFL games with Power & Richmond.

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