Now this is something to ponder over! Kevin has been involved in umpiring, either officiating or advising for two-thirds of his life! And that is worth celebrating!
Kevin Frederick Smith was born on 10 October 1946 at the Sacred Heart Hospital to Frederick and Veronica Smith. Living in the family home in Northcote, Kevin was surrounded by lots of siblings – one brother and three sisters.
Kevin attended St Mary’s Primary School in Thornbury. An astute student, Kevin graduated in 1958 from St Thomas’ C.B.C. Clifton Hill where he matriculated with flying colours. Whilst at St Thomas, Kevin showed that he was quite a promising footballer, being invited down to play with Thornbury YCW. In fact, whilst playing football, Kevin decided to earn extra pocket money by umpiring with the Preston and District Junior Football Association.
Looking for employment, Kevin applied and was accepted for a position with the Australian Taxation Department whilst he was still playing football and umpiring. In 1966, Kevin transferred over to De La Salles in the Amateurs to play football whilst also joining the Victorian Football League Reserve Grade list of umpires. Early in his tenure at De La Salles, Kevin was observed umpiring and was given a favourable report by his observer. Kevin decided to quit playing football and concentrate on his umpiring career, a wise decision given the career which lay ahead.
After two seasons on the Reserve Grade list, in 1968 Kevin was promoted to the Victorian Football League senior list of umpires. His first game was in the Mid Gippsland League where Hill End lost to Yallourn North 7-4-46 to 14-19-103. Despite it being a 57-point loss, this was considered a close game for Hill End as they would only win one game every five years.
On most Saturday Nights, Kevin would attend the Northern Suburbs Dance at the Heidelberg Town Hall. He met his wife Jean one night and they soon married at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury. They moved to Bundoora and raised three children – Lisa, Luke and Adam.
In addition to his umpiring in the football season, Kevin would play cricket, golf, tennis whilst also turning his attention to running with the Collingwood Harriers. A keen sportsman, some of this rubbed off onto his boys as Luke played football with the Northern Knights and a handful of games with Collingwood Seconds. Adam also played with the Northern Knights, captaining their premiership team. He also captained the Victorian Under 18 team and won the Best Player medal at the national Championships in Adelaide. He also won the Best and Fairest for Collingwood Reserves.
Adam also was a good cricketer with Northcote in the Victorian Premier League. He played in a premiership team and represented the State in the Sheffield Shield and One Day games. He was also appointed Captain of the Australian Under 19 team playing against India.
Kevin left the Australian Taxation Department and started a job with the Department of Health. On the field, after umpiring only two seasons in the bush, Kevin was given the opportunity with a match in the VFL Seconds between Footscray and Hawthorn. In what was a fiery encounter, Hawthorn beat the Doggies by 9 points. Kevin and boundary umpire McQueen both reported Footscray player Newman for striking. The rest of the 1970 season saw Kevin officiate in 10 Reserve Grade games.
In 1971, Kevin continued to umpire in the Reserves before being appointed to his first senior game at South Melbourne in the last round. Field umpire Ian Coates suffered a kick to the leg from a police horse escorting him off the ground the week prior, so was unfit for the last round, resulting in Kevin’s appointment. South Melbourne defeated North Melbourne by 72-points in front of a crowd of 9,307 at the South Melbourne Oval.
Just last month, Kevin rewarded the two boundary umpires on the day – Bill Sutton and Peter Saultry with a bottle of wine for their help and assistance in his first game, back in 1971.
Kevin then returned to the bush for two finals before he was appointed to a night game at South Melbourne, where Melbourne 19.20 d. Geelong 11.8. Teams outside the four in those days would play off for the night Premiership.
In 1972, Kevin was appointed to the first round of the season in the seniors. In Round 4, Kevin was appointed to a game at the MCG between Melbourne and Footscray. He arrived at the car park only to find he’d left his gear at home. He immediately drove back to Bundoora to find he’d left his bag on the footpath in front of his house. He quickly drove back to the MCG and arrived back with four minutes to spare. Noting Kevin’s late arrival, Boardman J.R.Gray had taken Mike Quinlivan out of the seconds ready to replace Kevin in the main game. It would have been Mike’s first senior game, however, Kevin’s arrival just before the game started meant Mike missed his only chance at a senior appointment.
The following week Kevin was appointed to Geelong and being in a hurry to be on time, he had a bingle in his car and arrived late again. The Boardman was J.R.Gray again who simply acknowledged his late arrival and walked out of the room. Kevin finished the year off by officiating in 14 of the 20 rounds that season.
In 1974, Kevin was appointed to 19 home and away matches finishing the year with a Qualifying Final and the Preliminary Final. The following year was similar with 15 home and away matches. After two finals, Kevin was appointed to his first VFL Grand Final. North Melbourne defeated Hawthorn, the Kangaroos first grand final win in front of a crowd of 110,000.
The two-umpire system was introduced in 1976 and Kevin went onto umpire each weekend of the season. He was appointed to the Qualifying, First Semi and Preliminary Final before being appointed to his second Grand Final, partnering with Bill Deller OAM. Hawthorn turned the tables by defeating North Melbourne by 30 points.
Kevin has one stat that can never be taken away from him. He was the last field umpire to officiate in a one-umpire Grand Final and the first in a two-umpire. The One Umpire/Two Umpire achievement by Kevin saw him awarded the inaugural GOLDEN WHISTLE AWARD.
Like with any new system, there were a few teething problems. One such problem occurred at a game played at North Melbourne when Kevin and Harvey Lyon could not get a message to each other over a decision made down the ground. Both kept pointing at each other with no decision being made for a very long time, with players looking at each other confused.
Kevin did not miss a game in the Seniors during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. However, in the 1978 Qualifying Final, Kevin fractured a bone on the outside of his knee following a collision with Hawthorn’s Michael Tuck which ended his finals campaign for the year. Kevin was awarded Life Membership of the VFLUA at the end of the year.
In 1979, Kevin umpired nineteen home and away games, the Qualifying Final and First Semi Final before he was appointed to his 3rd grand final, again partnering with Bill Deller OAM. The game was a thriller with Carlton defeating Collingwood in the dying minutes by 5 points – 11-16-82 to 11-11-77. With Kevin’s on-field success and his contribution to the AFLUA during the season, Kevin was awarded one of the AFLUA’s most prestigious awards – the Bishop Shield.
Kevin decided it was time to retire at the end of 1985. In total, Kevin umpired 303 VFL games, 4 VFL grand finals, 19 VFL finals, 5 night games, one night grand final, 27 VFL Reserve Grade games, 3 Reserve Grade finals, one Reserve Grade grand final, 89 VCFL games, 7 VCFL grand finals (Ovens & Murray; Sunraysia; North Central; Picola; Hampton; Goulburn Valley; and Bellarine), 13 VCFL finals and 7 Inter-league games.
At the end of the 1985 season, Kevin was awarded the Courage Award which goes to members who have overcome great personal adversity in the past 12 months and demonstrated a commitment to umpiring despite the challenges they have faced. Kevin’s last game on the Senior List was the Bellarine Grand Final between Drysdale and Leopold.
Asked to reflect on what sticks out in his mind over the 18 years he was on the senior list, Kevin without hesitation, mentioned the scariest player he’d ever had to deal with was Robert Muir, who had those eyes that penetrated deeply.
Before Kevin was lost to the system, Umpires’ Director Bill Deller OAM quickly snapped up Kevin to be the Umpires’ Coach, a position he held for four years from 1986 to 1989. Kevin then moved to the Southern Umpires as Umpiring Director in 1990. In 1996, Kevin decided it was time for a change. He applied to become Director of Umpiring at Eastern Football League, a position he held for eleven years. He then moved to the Northern Football League, as Director of Umpiring in 2007, a position which was much closer to home.
Whilst with the Northern Football League, Kevin started a Female Umpiring Panel. One of his protégé Lucinda Lopes became one of the first two female field umpires to be appointed onto the AFL Umpires’ list. He also increased the NFL’s umpire numbers reaching a record high with an average of over 150 umpires in attendance at training each week.
In 2008 Kevin was inducted into the AFLUA Hall of Fame. At the end of 2014, Kevin decided it was time to retire. In recognition of his career and outstanding service to umpiring, the AFL awarded Kevin a Merit Award in 2014.
In 2015, he was approached by Rowan Sawers who is Director of Umpiring at the Essendon Football League and asked if he would be interested in observing young umpires. Kevin has undertaken this role for the past three seasons on a part-time basis which allows him time to spend with his grandchildren.
Kevin has also taken to lawn bowls at the Bundoora Bowling Club. He has visited most of Australia, loves reading autobiographies and watching sport. He enjoys current affair programs and loves to have a good laugh at reality TV shows.
After 53 years’ service to umpiring, we salute you Kevin. Well done!
1946 – Born to Frederick and Veronica Smith 10.10.1946
1965 – Umpired in Preston District Junior Football Association, largest Under Age Competition at the time.
1966 – Joined Victorian Football League Reserve Grade Umpires
1968 – Promoted to Victorian Football League Senior list of Umpires. First appointment to Mid Gippsland League – Hill End
1970 – First VFL seconds match, Footscray v Hawthorn
1971 – First VFL Senior match – South Melbourne v North Melbourne
1975 – Appointed to VFL Grand Final – Last One-Umpire appointment
1976 – Appointed to VFL Grand Final – First with the Two-Umpire System. Partner Bill Dellar OAM. Won the inaugural Golden Whistle Award.
1978 – Awarded Life Membership of the Victorian Football League Umpires’ Association
1979 – Appointed to VFL Grand Final. Partner Bill Deller OAM. Winner of the VFLUA Bishop Sheen Award
1982 – Appointed to the VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final
1983 – Appointed to the VFL Grand Final. Partner Neville Nash
1985 – Awarded Life Membership of the Australian Football League. (300 games. Awarded the Courage award to members who have overcome great adversity. Retired from officiating as Field Umpire
1986 – Appointed as Field Umpire Coach Under the Directorship of Bill Deller OAM.
1990 – Appointed Director of Umpiring at Southern Umpires Association
1990 – Appointed Director of Umpiring at the Eastern Football League.
2000 – Awarded Australian Sports Medal by the Commonwealth Government
2008 – Awarded the AFLUA Hall of Fame. Appointed Director of Umpiring at the Northern Football League
2014 – Awarded the AFL Merit Award for outstanding services to Football
2015 – Observing at the Essendon Football League
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows