My next “where are they now” is an umpire who officiated in close to 500 games during his career.

Born on the 22.2.1944 in Brunswick to Ralph and Joy Sutcliffe, John Sutcliffe is one of three siblings having a brother Geoff and sister Carol.  The family spent the first eleven years of John’s life in Brunswick with John attending Central Brunswick State School in 1949.  In 1955, the family moved to East Ivanhoe where John attended Trinity Grammar until 1961.

It was at Trinity Grammar where John became interested in sport, representing the school in Football 2ndXVIII, Cricket 2ndXI.  He also played Double Base for the School Orchestra and social Squash and Tennis. But his love of umpiring eventuated, when in 1961, John was asked by the Ivanhoe Amateurs Football Club to umpire on the boundary.

After graduating, John applied for a position with British Phosphate Commissioners where he worked until 1970.  It was during this time that the umpiring bug reappeared, so in 1963 John applied and was accepted onto the VFL Reserve Grade list as a field umpire. John quickly established himself as a field umpire with the help of his father Ralph, who was a field umpire on the VFL Senior List.

John started umpiring in the Under 19s and in 1965 he was appointed as emergency field umpire in the U19 Grand Final.  Back then, that meant John was rated Number 9 on the list on the Reserve Grade List. In 1966, Norm Price (a member of the Reserve Grade Board) informed John that he could go onto the Senior List but that it would be good for his development if he stayed on the Reserve Grade List for another year.  John followed that advice and finished 1966 with the U19 Preliminary Final.  He was now Number 2 on the list to be promoted.

In 1967, John was promoted to the VFL Senior List. His first game was Alexandra v Euroa in the Waranga Northeast League.  He spent the next thirteen weeks traveling the country gaining experience. In 1968, after six more country appointments, John was promoted to the senior training track at Olympic Park where almost immediately he received his first of seven Reserve Grade games between Footscray and South Melbourne.           

John performed well and after one game, he was invited to attend a party in Kew.  It was here that he met Jill.  The couple dated for 2 years before John proposed and they were married in Kew in 1970.  At about the same time, John took up a new position with Comalco, a position he held for 5 years.

On the umpiring side of things John was setting the world on fire and after only 16 Reserve Grade appointments, he was promoted to his first Senior game between Fitzroy v. Essendon at the Junction Oval. He finished off the year holding his spot. In 1971, John umpired one game but was injured and resumed in the Reserves Grade and didn’t regain a senior birth for the remainder of the year. He finished the year off umpiring 6 finals in the VCFL.

During this time, John and Jill started a family welcoming Timothy into the world in 1972 and Jeremy one year later. At the same time, John joined the Social Committee for two years before being elected to the Executive Committee for 3 years. In 1977 John was awarded Life Membership of the VFLUA.

After 5 years with Comalco, John’s brother Geoff convinced him to come and join him in business operating Domestic & Office Furniture in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. The business was so successful that bigger premises were required and a move to Spencer Street, West Melbourne in 1978 saw Sutcliffe Interiors prosper.

During the next seven years, John continued to umpire at VFL level.  He also umpired grand finals in Wimmera (2), Tatiara, Latrobe Valley (2), Kowree Naracoorte, Ovens and Murray, Ballarat, Mornington and Tallangatta and District Leagues.  In 1977, John was appointed alongside Ian Robinson to umpire the VFL Grand Final between Collingwood and North Melbourne.  The game ended in a draw and John and Ian were reappointed to umpire the replay one week later.

During this time, John was also appointed to five inter-league games – Wimmera v. Nth Central at Warracknabeal, A.C.T. v. Collingwood at Canberra, Hampden v. Latrobe Valley at Colac and Ballarat v. Bendigo at Ballarat. John was also appointed to a match in Port Moresby where the Australian Aborigines played Papua New Guinea.

John recalls a funny story that happened to him in 1979.  John was appointed to a game at North Melbourne when after parking his car, he realised he had NO BAG. In a time before mobile phones, he made a quick dash to Ron Joseph’s office and phoned his wife Jill.  Jill was working and made a quick dash home to find John’s bag on the front porch.

Time was of the essence and decisions had to be made, gear from other umpires looked John’s only out. Boots and Whistles from Emg. Umpire Ian Bennett, shirts and shorts from his partner on the day in Rowan Sawers and a sight to be seen as Rowan’s gear was a touch smaller than John would wear, looked like a ballet dancer as they headed down the race. Jill just happened to arrive as the boys headed onto the ground. But this was not the end of this saga as the boys swapped gear for the second half, poor Rowan wearing larger than suitable gear did not score as well as John on the day.

In 1981, John retired from umpiring.  However Umpires’ Director Bill Deller pounced and asked John to fill a newly created position of Cadet Squad Umpires’ Advisor.  John continued in this position for 4 years before handing over to Glenn James. In 1987, John was appointed as Advisor with the VFL Senior Squad for one year.

During his time in umpiring, John considered his two favourite umpires to be Jeff Crouch and Ian Coates. He has no real comments to football today other than to say he is glad to have umpired in the era that he officiated.

In 2007, John sold out of his business and decided to retire.  He balances time with his family and grandchildren, the odd game of golf at the Kew Golf Club, lifting weights in his home walking along the river at Bullen and around Ruffy Creek Reserve.  He enjoys current affairs programs when he gets the time.

John’s love of horse racing is well known.  He has owned a number of horses including Winston Drive by Churchill Downs, ridden by Michelle Payne won a big race at Flemington.  Recently John’s horse Set with Jewels won a race at Bendigo and Maid Equal won at Echuca. His trainer is Darren Weir and has two brood mares – Manhatten Maid and Manhatten Treasurer. John spends most Saturday afternoon at the races and watches races on the TV whenever he can.

In 2010, John was inducted into the AFL Umpires’ Hall of Fame.

A beaming smile and a great personality – congratulations “Slim” on a great career.

Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows

Record:

 V.F.L. Games ………………………………………………………………………………..          214                                     

          (1stGame – Fitzroy v. Essendon Junction Oval 23.05.1970)

            (Last Game – Richmond v. Carlton M.C.G. 29.08.1981)

            (200thGame ; – Melbourne v. St Kilda M.C.G. 18.04.1981)

V.F.L. Finals ………………………………………………………………………………….             6

            (1975,1976,1977 x 2, 1978 and 1980)

V.F.L. GRAND FINALS  …………………………………………………………………….             2

            (1977 x2)

V.F.L. Night Games  …………………………………………………………………………            4

V.F.L. Reserve Grade Games  ……………………………………………………………           51

            (1stReserve Game – Footscray v. South Melbourne 8.06.1968)

V.F.L. Reserve grade Preliminary Final  …………………………………………………           1

V.F.L. Reserve Grade GRAND FINALS  ………………………………………………..              2

            (1978 & 1980)

V.C.F.L. Inter-League Games  …………………………………………………………..              5

            (Wimmera v. North Central at Warracknabeal;)

(A.C.T. v. Collingwood at Manuka Oval Canberra)

            (Hampden v. Latrobe Valley at Colac,)

( Ballarat v. Bendigo at City Oval Ballarat)

            (Australian Aborigines v. Papua New Guinea in Port Morsby)

V.C.F.L. Home & Away  ……………………………………………………………………           64

V.C.F.L. Semi – finals  …………………………………… ……………………………….           20

V.C.F.L. GRAND FINALS ………………………………… ……………………………….          13

            (Wimmera x 3, Tatiara, Latrobe Valley x 2, Kowree Naracoorte)

            (Ovens & Murray Res., Ballarat, Mornington, Tallangatta & Dist. X 2)

            (Goulburn Valley)

V.F.L. Reserve Grade List;-

Under 19 Preliminary Final;- Collingwood 10.7  d. South Melbourne 8.15  (17.09.1966)

            Boundaries; Hennigan & Sutton.     Goals;Round & Hayes.

V.F.L. Reserve Grade List field Umpire (Including Finals) …………………………          72

Umpires’ Advisor VFL Cadet Squad 1982 – 1985

Advisor with VFL Senior List   1987

V.F.L.U.A. Social Committee   1972 – 1973

V.F.L.U.A. Executive Committee  1974 – 1976

Life Member 1977

Hall of Fame   2010

 

 

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