Umpiring has lost one of its most genial colleagues with the passing of Jim Rowe. Jim lost his battle with cancer on 11 January 2008.
Born James Charles Rowe on 6 July 1935 he grew up in Footscray and Maidstone with an enthusiasm for sport that saw him involved in both cricket and football at various levels.Jim played football with Footscray Under-17s and Brunswick Amateur Football Club in the VAFA. He was perhaps more successful at cricket. As a batsmen he won the averages at Footscray and Yarraville Social and Surrey Hills Cricket Clubs, and as a team member won premierships with Newport Cricket Club in the Victorian Junior Cricket Association. He was also a quality medium pace bowler.
In 1957 Jim began umpiring when he joined the VFL Reserve Grade as a field umpire. After four seasons he was promoted to the VFL Senior list where he would stay for seventeen years umpiring in every competition to which the VFL provided umpires. His most successful period came between 1969 and 1973 when he umpired multiple VCFL finals each year. It included his only Grand Final, the 1970 Kyabram and District between Nagambie and Undera at Murchison. In front of a record crowd Nagambie completed an undefeated season despite Undera sticking just within striking distance but never able to take the lead.
While the Grand Final was momentous Jim claimed his most memorable was Maryborough v. East Ballarat in July 1972. The match ended in the only draw of the season but controversy erupted when Maryborough claimed a behind scored in the second quarter was never registered.As field umpire Jim was required to attend the protest hearing the following Friday night in Ballarat. This was not normally a problem but after the hearing he had to catch ‘The Overland’ at 10.58 for Horsham and Kowree-Narracoorte League on the Saturday to umpire the Kingston-Padthaway match.
The ‘missed’ behind was the product of confusion. Jim’s evidence at the hearing was straight to the point.”The ball was kicked goalwards by Maryborough captain, Geoff Scott, and an East opponent attempting to stop the kick touched the ball. Another East player caught the ball about two feet in front of the goal line then crossed the scoring line. “I had called ‘touched, play on’ after the ball was touched up field. When I saw the player cross the scoring line I called out ‘touched, all clear’, then ran in and told the East player why the mark was disallowed. He threw the ball to another East player, I ran back upfield and the players took up their positions for the kick-in. The ball was kicked in and I allowed play to go on.”Unfortunately the goal umpire was not aware of what had happened and never registered the behind. It was only at half time, when queried by a Mary borough official, that he was aware something may have been awry.
Jim admitted he assumed the flag had been waved and it was his error that had caused the mix up – a generous declaration in the circumstances. Nevertheless the appeal was dismissed and Jim caught his train west.
It was not the only time Jim was called on to give evidence in unusual circumstances. During 1961, his first year on the senior list, he was the central figure in one of the VFL’s most controversial episodes – the Boyd-Nicholls incident.