In 2009 research revealed that Bob Boyle, long credited with running the boundary in the 1916 VFL Grand Final, did not actually take up the appointment and was replaced pre-match by Bill Roy. A similar occurrence has recently been discovered. This time it is the 1910 VFL Grand Final and involves the goal umpires.
For many years the minute books of the VFL Permit and Umpire Committee covering the years 1908-10 were missing from AFL records. These were the only records that indicated any changes from the original boundary and goal appointments published in the newspapers of the day.
The recent rediscovery of the minute books has provided a wealth of information not just for the match by match appointments but also in identifying a number of our ‘mystery’ umpires. The addresses in the minute book allow us to investigate the correct person for whom we may only have a surname and sometimes an initial and hopefully contact their descendants for more information.
A number of match appointments and totals have also been corrected but by far the most significant is the 1910 VFL Grand Final.
Originally appointed were field umpire Jack Elder, boundary umpires Bill McNamara and Frank Ayles and goal umpires James Keenan and John Lucas.
The recovered minute book is very clear with a line drawn through Keenan’s name and replaced by Bill Little (below). The note beside the change is indecipherable but possibly reads ‘injured’. It is a reasonable guess as an article which appeared in The Herald, Melbourne’s afternoon newspaper, on grand final eve, Friday 30 September 1910 (page 2) indicates he was injured at work earlier in the week having part of a finger chopped of by an hydraulic jack (right).
It had been a somewhat sensational year for Keenan. In June he had testified in a case where field umpire George Hastings was fined for assaulting an innocent spectator in the mistaken belief he was one of a mob assaulting him.
Keenan umpired with the VFL for two more years but was not appointed to another final before moving on to the Metropolitan Amateurs. He had been a field, boundary and goal umpire compiling 137 matches in total from 1897. He passed away in 1944, aged 72.
William Little had been a VFL goal umpire since 1902. The 1910 grand final was his second and last. He umpired 163 VFL matches, passing away in October 1913, seven weeks after his final appointment.
As for the books it is believed that they were discarded by the VFL – possibly when they moved from Harrison House – and rescued by a collector interested in them. They were stored at his residence in Flemington until his death in early 2014. As the house was emptied after his death, these records were uncovered. The family sold them to another collector in July 2014 and in November the AFLUA was granted access to retrieve any useful information. The tracing and retrieval of the books is another great piece of detective work by AFLUA Historian Lloyd Fisk and completes a number of records in the AFLUA Biography Project.