Best seat in the house

In front, Terry O’Donnell and Bill Yendle with football; John Moss, Ian Brown, Clive Macaulay, Mike Quinlivan, Peter Murray and Ian Pritchard at the recent umpires luncheon at ClubMulwala.

Being a football umpire has been described by record Victorian holder of games umpired, Terry O’Donnell, as “the best seat in the house”.

As field umpire, O’Donnell, who umpired 417 Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) games and is still umpiring junior grades, at 78-years-of-age, had lunch at ClubMulwala on Wednesday, June 8 with seven other retired umpires.

“Every month we have an umpires luncheon at Caulfield Race Club in Melbourne but this time we decided to come up here – our umpire mates up here can’t get down to Melbourne and we didn’t want them to feel neglected,” he told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.

An estimated combined total of about 2420 senior games was umpired by the eight Aussie Rules football umpires who dined at ClubMulwala.

“I’ve actually umpired 2500 games overall,” O’Donnell told the Yarrawonga Chronicle. A state record? “Yes!” he responded. “I love umpiring, the people you meet, the friends you make, including in this area.

“I love being involved in football and umpiring is the best seat in the house, because you’re amongst the action all the time.”

O’Donnell encourages people to consider taking up umpiring.

His active involvement includes having been secretary of the umpires association to being involved in three VFL Umpire Academies with 60 aspiring umpires at Werribee and Wyndham, and a welfare role looking after interests or issues raised by retired umpires.

“I enjoy the welfare job, helping people,” he said. “The oldest umpire I see is 98 (Wally Hopkins, Footscray).”

For 27 years, O’Donnell was the handicapper at the Burramine Gift. So well organised by Yarrawonga identity Frances Connell, the iconic, long-running 62-year event at Yarrawonga’s J C Lowe Oval concluded in 2015.

Yarrawonga’s Bill Yendle, 96, and Ian Pritchard, 81, umpired at least 450 and 240 senior VCFL games respectively, Mulwala’s 92-year-old Clive Macaulay some 280 games, Wodonga’s Mike Quinlivan, 77, 296 games, and three other Melbournites, Peter Murray, 86, 240 games, 76-year-old Ian Brown over 300 games and John Moss, 75, 200 games.

“We usually get 15 to 20 at our monthly luncheon in Melbourne,” Umpire O’Donnell said. “It was great seeing the umpires in Yarrawonga Mulwala.” And vice versa from the local umpires!

Many yarns of yesteryear, in the days of these field umpires being solely in charge of games, were recalled over the three-hour, delicious luncheon at ClubMulwala.