Phlegmatic Flegg Reaches Milestone

This week, another AFL games record will be broken. And could there be a more deserving man to take over the mantle? I think not.

*          *          *

The casual football observer would be unaware of the preparation and dedication required to be an umpire in this era of professionalism. Long gone are the days when tubby old blokes who could barely break into a trot were stationed at each end of a suburban VFL ground. These days, even the goal umpires are put through a rigorous pre-season training program, and if pre-determined fitness levels are not met, they are simply excised from the list.

It is a surprisingly cut-throat caper. The performances of goal-umpires are scrutinised by official observers, who are watching for the slightest error in positioning or decision-making. The “goalies’ are ranked and, in similar fashion to the league ladder, can fall many places if they make even the slightest error. These rankings ultimately determine who will umpire finals matches.

This Saturday afternoon at the MCG when David Flegg, flags tucked under his arm, strides out onto the famous turf amid the umpires’ posse for the 335th time, he will break the AFL/VFL record for the number of games goal-umpired. It is a mighty achievement. But, in his typical unassuming manner, he is keen for the milestone to pass unreported. Sorry mate, but I cannot allow that to happen!

Fleggy made his senior debut in the 1988 season at a match at the Whitten Oval between Footscray and Carlton. Sharing the flag-waving duties that day was his friend and mentor (and now goal-umpiring coach) Rod Davies. One cannot overstate the effort required to remain at the top of his profession for twenty-four years, a career that has taken him to the grand final on three occasions. He debuted in an era of part-time umps, and has survived and thrived into these times of professionalism and accompanying public and slow-motion replay media scrutiny.

It is fair to say that David entered season 2011 under a cloud. Last year he had suffered a number of personal setbacks, including a badly torn hamstring, and his ability to remain on the list was in doubt. He only required 12 more games to break the record (goal umpires are rotated these days also), but was focused merely on getting himself in the best possible physical shape. The fact that he was spotted at the Fearon Reserve in Williamstown in February, honing his craft at a pre-season training session of VAFA club Williamstown CYMS, gave a pointer to the level of his determination.

Now, the big day is at hand. There will be no banner. The vast majority of the Carlton and Melbourne supporters will remain blissfully unaware of the significance of the effort. And the man himself, as humble a servant of the game as you could wish to meet, has demanded that there be no fanfare. He will go about his business with a minimum of fuss, as he has done for the past two decades and more. Just a quiet celebration amongst his closest friends and umpiring brethren. Congratulations Fleggy on this magnificent achievement. And may you continue waving the flags for a couple of more seasons yet.


About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Well done Mr Flegg – great achievement.
    Back in the 80’s all goal umpires looked like moustachioed refugees from Village People concerts. That measured strut back to the Centre of the goal face. The meaningful look for the central umpires nod. The measured pause while thousands of fans held their breath. The thrusting digits that sent myriad girls swooning. The power and the presence.
    Nowadays the central umpires prance and preen while the goalies have become anonymous cyphers. Another example of how the Giesch’s leadership is destroying the game.
    Any chance of showing Ray the calicos, and taking up the whistle Fleggie???
    Bung hamstrings and all – you have the character that made Jeff Crouch and Glen James great. Well done.

  2. This is why I love The Almanac… thanks, Smokie

  3. Long may the goal umpires rule the 10 metre square. They sit like a family heirloom on the mantlepiece. I love ’em.

    Thanks Smokie.

  4. bourbanbob says

    well done fleggy

  5. Fleggy congrats on the milestone and hope the game goes smoothly. Heres to you going on to umpire 400!!!

  6. Fantastic effort Fleggy.
    I will be there so please add a couple of extra goals to the bunch of misfits I support, the Dees.

Leave a Comment