The (Lost) Art of Umpiring

I came across this during the week. I thought that it was worth sharing some of the contents before it physically dissolves. If I’ve broken any of the fair use regulations, take it up with my employer.

That’s Max O’Connell on the cover.

Peter Clee, was the book’s author. He had credentials which only grew after this 1974 publication.


I’ve picked out some content that appealed to me. It is certainly of the era. (If you feel the need, click on the images to enlarge them).

Murray Ducker was always very well turned out.

Why lab coats on goal umps? We’ll probably never know.

Des Foster’s 1978 gift to Phil Gallagher and Norwood was a few years away when this was taken, but there is more than a hint of the Donny Dunstans in this shot.

More Murray Ducker, this time with his repertoire of 70s disco moves. He was ahead of his time. It’s fun to stay at the YMCA apparently. Boundary umps only had to know a couple of signals, what with all of that running backwards stuff as well.

The poor old Goal Umps looked a bit like dills, didn’t they. How big was it?

Bouncing – to think that this was the days of a single field umpire too. Upwards of fifty times a game.

Positioning – I’ve really only included this because that’s Centrals’ Phil Haughan flying for the mark.

More positioning – or was it an early prototype for the Nokia 3350 Snake game?

The guy third from left is my father’s first cousin, Michael Wilson. He was also a boundary umpire, which makes him a tosser in more ways than one.

There was no goal review technology back then. It wasn’t needed.

And there was always some anti-authoritarian hippy player for the umps to deal with. (Actually David ‘Sally’ Saywell was a mild-mannered primary school teacher, born in Kidderminster, England)


About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Dr Goatboat says

    No coincidence that Laurie Sweeney was wearing port colours every time he umpired.
    Meanwhile KG introduced the collar up approach.
    Goal umpires still raise their scorecard to eye level to fill in…..why is that?

  2. No pictures of Bob Schofield? At Glenelg Oval in 1980 a kid told me after an apparently egregious Schofield decision that “Schofield favours every team in the competition except Glenelg”. As a 9-year old wide-eyed Tigers fan, I was shocked and appalled at this gross impartiality.

    And what was the name of the umpire whose brother played for Port? Can’t remember if it was Craig or Kym Kinnear.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Re the goal umps: dunno Goaty, dunno.

    Rick Kinnear (umpire) was Kym Kinnear’s brother PE.

  4. Yep, Dr. G, the old goal umpire routine is still one of my favourites at quarter breaks, even in the Appalling Football League, just hilarious. Where do they find blokes prepared to do this to get their 15 minutes? If bouncing is an O H & S issue (see above re 50 bounces+), and it is not, why isn’t their score card routine also! The stress of getting the old biro to write up hill at eye level….and in front of all those people!

  5. Mark Duffett says

    The eye level writing is so that you can still keep half an eye on the play while making your mark – multitasking, dontcha know. Originally the theory was that this should help prevent sneaky king hits before play restarts, but has increased in importance since the requirement for the kick-in to wait until after flag-waving was abolished, as there’s live play to monitor.

    I’ve only ever witnessed one bloke practice bouncing Method A, the dad of one of my mini-league team mates, who occasionally umpired for us circa 1980, well past his prime. Must have disappeared about the same time as the drop kick.

    I’m guessing the game action shots would be from either the 1971 or ’72 Preliminary finals?

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well done Mark D on clearing up the eye-level mystery.

    Phil Haughan was number 16 when he came over in 1971, changed to number 2 in 1972, so definitely the 72 PF – another losing Centrals final that I bore witness to.

    I’ve heard from others that the goal umps’ coats were also referred to in some parts as butcher’s coats. I reckon that those buckles were also used in the Apollo space program.

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Beauties these pics!
    Thanks Swish.

  8. Very enjoyable, Swish.
    It was truly another time.

  9. Dave Brown says

    Lovely! As well as being a genrous man, from memory, Des Foster also was quite ideosyncratic in his signalling. Almost like watching bowling actions from that era – much greater variety.

  10. Point taken, Mark. But they still do it when checking the scores in the centre of the ground at the quarter breaks. Before they both stand to attention like Buck Palace Coldstream Guards, one pirouettes to signal correct weight to the scoreboard, then they both unbend for a little drinkypoo. Quite funny to watch.

  11. Great memories and pix Swish. Grandad reckoned all hope was lost as soon as Mark Posa’s number went up on the scoreboard a half hour before bounce down (remember that?). Memory is it was a response to footy talkback on Fridays and Saturdays being dominated by whinges about which biased maggot your team had been allocated for the afternoon.
    Posa was State Secretary of the DLP and therefore had bias against the working class teams like Torrens. Grandad had a vast repertoire of well practiced pre-game excuses. “We are no good at (insert oval name here).” “We are no good in the wet”. “They are dirty mongrels and they’ll rough up Lindsay Head”. “We have got too many New Australians in the team again”. “The wind will turn and they’ll get the breeze again in the last quarter”.
    Avoid disappointment. Be miserable and get in early. (Wondered where I got it from).

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks once more everybody. Those pix were too good not to share.

    The book itself is pretty good for what it attempts to do. I was going to reprint some of the rules as they stood back then, but the main thing of note is that Holding The Ball was both topped and tailed with the statement “The spirit of this law is to keep the ball in motion”.

    I did a Cadet Umpiring Course run by Murray Ducker when I was around 16. Never used it in anger, save for the one time a few years later when my mate’s son was playing and the appointed umpy didn’t turn up. Josh Francou and Martin Pike thought that I did quite well, but what would they know, they were only playing under nines that day.

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nice Swish,
    Time to bring back the lab coats and the thumbs up signal with a dash of theatre.

  14. Mark Duffett says

    Unfortunately theatre is not encouraged (Razor Ray notwithstanding). Quite a few years ago now a young goal umpire approaching the fringe of AFL selection had perfected a post-wave flag flourish in which the sticks somersaulted, the flags nestled themselves together and the whole assembly dropped into the holders. I understand he was advised he’d never make the top flight if he persisted with it.

  15. As a former junior and senior umpire, I sympathise with the whistlers.
    I drive my mates mad by saying an umpire never costs a team a game. The umpire doesn’t force turnovers, or miss kicks at goal, or drops marks…
    If I may say, I was an accomplished bouncer. But I suffered badly from back stress fractures as a junior (cricket related too) and senior umpire.
    I’ve had back issues ever since. Not blaming the bounce entirely because I thought I was a bowler too…
    That book, Swish, is an important document of our wonderful game, an era that once was.
    Remember when goal umpire Andrew Curtis used his thumbs instead of fingers in 2006? He got in trouble for it.
    But in the 1975 grand final between Hawthorn and North Melbourne, a goal umpire also repeatedly used his thumbs to indicate a goal, instead of his fingers…
    Thumbs and goal umpires are rare…
    And before 96, the goal umpire could signal a goal from anywhere. The AFL changed it and made every goal umpire run to the centre of the goals and make their signal there. It ruined a bit of the theatre when the fans weren’t sure what the signal would be…

  16. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Matt, I don’t recall thumbs ever being used in SA.

  17. Simon Hedger says

    Are the good old days. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centuries. )Douglas Adams 1952 – 2001) I just had to add the quote.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Swish I umpired with the sanfl in 83 I have enormous respect for both Murray and Des
    Murray not only was a fine umpire but a good coach ( a mile better than what the afl have now ) while Des encouraged and helped younger umpires

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