Malcolm Harcourt Foster was born on 26 May 1950 and grew up in Murrumbeena and East Bentleigh. He played football during his childhood but an injury led him to take up boundary umpiring with the South-East Suburban Football League in 1966.
He moved to field umpiring and in 1972 joined the VFL Reserve Grade. Three years later he achieved promotion to the senior VFL list and spent the next seven years 130 VCFL matches developing into an excellent country umpire. Those matches including an Ovens and Murray Qualifying Final and a VCFL Championship match between the East Gippsland and Bas Valley leagues.
A tall and graceful runner, Mal’s height was considered by the coaching staff of the time to be an impediment to his elevation to senior VFL football.
As a result of this evaluation, in 1982, he left field umpiring and returned to the Reserve Grade. Here he honed his skills as a goal umpire and in 1983 he was back on the senior VFL list. He debuted in the VFL on 2 July 1983 on the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Richmond played North Melbourne. The same stature and smooth movement that stalled his career in the field was perfect for his time in the goals.
Over six seasons Mal compiled a total of 36 senior VFL matches which included two finals. In his last year he was appointed to the 1988 Preliminary Final and was also chosen to represent Australia and the VFL in the demonstration matches played in London and Toronto.
In order to spend as much time as possible with his growing family, Mal retired after the 1988 season. He continued his involvement in football in a number of capacities including observing field umpires for the VFL Cadet Squad and the Southern Umpires, as well as serving as a panel member and Deputy Chair of the Southern Football League Independent Tribunal for many years. He passed away on 13 August 2003, aged 53, the result of a recurrent inoperable cancer. He became a life member of the VFLUA in 1986.
Renowned for his infectious humour, constant smile and personal integrity (as well as his ability to wear a cardigan with dignity), Mal Foster was an excellent umpire, loyal friend and fine family man. Many people are richer for having known him and poorer for his untimely passing.
Vale Mal Foster.