Bill Blackburn

billblackburnBill Blackburn joined the VFL list in 1927 and made his senior debut in Round 1, 1929. In the following six seasons, he gradually built a reputation as an excellent umpire with a high level of fitness. He brooked little dissent from players and enforced a stern discipline on the field during his 189 senior VFL matches

At the height of Bill’s career, he was in charge of most of the interstate matches, including Victoria v WA in 1938 and Victoria v SA in 1939, both at the MCG. In 1937, he was invited to travel to Western Australia to umpire that states clash against South Australia – quite an honour given the parochial nature of the times

Appointed to his first final in 1933 and his first Grand Final in 1938, he was the emergency the following season for the Melbourne versus Collingwood Grand Final — and there was sensation

During the second quarter Alan Coward collided with a player and hit the ground, dislocating his shoulder. Blackburn took over from him, and immediately asserted his presence. While Coward was down, Melbourne had kicked a goal, through Wartman to Truscott to Beames. But Blackburn, to the hoots of derision from Melbourne supporters, disallowed the goal because the injured Coward had not given an all-clear

After retiring, Blackburn took up the role of VFL umpires’ coach. As well as coaching the umpires, he became an unofficial ambassador for umpiring

He had made a life-long study of the rules and was always willing to impart his knowledge to other umpires, players, officials or any interested parties. He would travel anywhere at short notice in the interests of football. It was nothing for him to travel 200 miles to lecture to a small country football club and then return home the same night.

As a lecturer, he became famous throughout football circles nationwide and was always in demand for interstate trips

As an umpire and coach for more than a quarter of a century, Blackburn contributed much to Australian football generally and umpiring in particular

President of the VFLUA in 1933, Blackburn was elected Life Member in 1936