Our next ‘Where are they now?” is boundary umpire Ray James ‘Splinter’ Prosser, Heritage number 347 who ran the boundary for 150 games in the two-boundary umpire system from 1977 to 1986.
Nicknamed ‘Splinter’ because of his thin physique, Ray told me that most embarrassing moment on the list was when he was appointed to the Sydney Cricket Ground at the time that Dr Edelsten had the Swanettes in full flight. After the first goal, it was Ray who had to go and retrieve the ball from behind the goals. You guessed it, the Swanettes jumped up and started their routine with Ray amongst all the girls trying to find the football. At the time it appeared that Ray was part of their performance until a player yelled to Ray that the ball had been thrown back onto the ground. With flushed cheeks Ray retrieved the ball and ran to forward it to his partner.
Born to Ray and Dorothy Prosser on 9 July 1951 at the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne, the family and his younger brother Geoff lived in Thornbury and in 1956 enrolled at the Hutton Street Thornbury Primary School.
In 1962, Ray graduated to Northcote High School where on the sporting side he participated in both football and cricket. Over time Ray started to show promise on the academic side of things, so his parents decided in 1965 to send Ray to Ivanhoe Grammar School where he graduated in 1970. This was the same year that Ray noticed in ‘The Age’ newspaper an advertisement for umpires with the Reserve Grade List. Ray applied and was successful and was appointed as a boundary umpire. His first game was in the Federal League.
After leaving Ivanhoe Grammar, Ray applied for a position with T and G Mutual Life Insurance which later merged with National Mutual Insurance. During this time, Ray was performing very well on the umpiring front and was appointed to the Under 19 Grand Final in 1975, partnering with Alan Butterworth with Ian Hansen as field umpire. An interesting sidelight was that on the Friday before the grand final, Ray had flexi time and applied for the day off. He was going to relax and prepare for the game but received a call from a mate asking for help to launch a Catamaran in Port Phillip Bay. Sailing along at great speed, the boat flipped and sent both passengers into the water, where they spent the next few hours treading water. Fortunately, someone on shore saw what happened and called for help. Six hours treading water is not the ideal preparation for a grand final.
In 1976, Ray had another good year and was appointed to the Reserve Grade Grand Final which turned out to be quite a high scoring game with Collingwood 23.17 defeating North Melbourne 19.15. His partner on the day was Sam Sullivan and the field umpire was Neville Nash.
The following year saw Ray appointed to the Senior list at Olympic Park. Ray received his first Senior appointment to the Carlton v Fitzroy game at Princes Park where he ran with partner Murray Williams.
In 1979, the family moved from Thornbury to the Mornington Peninsula.
During his tenure at National Mutual Insurance, Ray started dating Lynn and after a couple of years he was promoted to ANZ Funds Management as a personal investment manager for the Gippsland region. With so much travel, Ray decided to give up umpiring after he received his life membership in 1986.
His final tally – 2 x 2 semi finals (1978 and 1982), Qualifying Final (1980), Emergency Preliminary Final (1980), Emergency First Semi (1981), Emergency Elimination Final (1982), VCFL Qualifying Final Goulburn Valley (1977 and 1978) and an Exhibition match between Carlton Reserves & Under 19 (1978). In 1987, Ray became a boundary umpires’ obvisor with the VFL for 2 years.
In 1988, Ray proposed to Lynn and the couple married. In 1990, they had their first children – identical twin girls Elise and Sarah and today they have one grandchild – Willow who was born in November 2018.
In 1987, Ray became a boundary umpires’ obvisor with the VFL for 2 years. From 1989 to 1990, Ray was Boundary Umpires’ Advisor with the Southern Football League. In 1991, he was promoted again and became State Administration Manager for Victoria with Westpac Life Insurance.
In 1992, Ray was appointed to the position of Business Development Manager in the Life Insurance industry with Westpac. Ray decided for a career change and after discussing with his wife, he applied for a real estate position in the Mornington/Mt Martha area, which was closer to home. Ray claims it was the best decision he ever made and he was rewarded with the Real Estate Sales Person for Australia in 1998. At a ceremony at the Sheraton Mirage on the Gold Coast in front of 750 of his peers, Ray was awarded the certificate with great pomp and ceremony.
In 2011 Ray decided it was time to retire and he now spends every Christmas as he has done for the past 50 years up at Bright in North East Victoria. He has two units that require his attention and cannot wait to head north and attend to the needs of the properties and to admire the stunning scenery.
Whilst umpiring and working Ray and the family still found time to cruise to New Zealand 4 times, went on a 26-night cruise around Australia on the Dawn Princess and in November 2019 will once again cruise to Fiji for 14-nights aboard the Golden Princess.
Ray loves his gardening, and is a keen golfer playing at Cape Schank Golf Course where he plays off a handicap of 21. He also enjoys a run to keep his fitness at a high level. Ray and Lynn now live in Mornington where they have for the past 40 years. Asked what he thinks of football today his reply was “Too many umpires, but I still enjoy the game”.
Recently Ray underwent a major operation and is just starting to walk to get back to his healthy normal self.
Best wishes Ray for a speedy recovery.
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Whizzer’ Fellows