Jack ‘Roughnut’ Irving came to the VFL late in his umpiring career after achieving great success in the VFA. He umpired six Association Grand Finals in eight years before joining the VFL in 1958. It took only five matches in the Reserve Grade before he was promoted to senior VFL football.
In only three finals series between 1960-2, Jack umpired two grand finals and two preliminary finals. This included a Grand Final in his first finals series. He represented Victoria in the ANFC Carnival in Brisbane in 1961.
Irving paid one of the most controversial free kicks in finals history during his final game. At the 28 minute mark of the 1962 Preliminary Final replay, Carlton led Geelong by 5 points. With the timekeeper’s finger poised over the siren button, Pomeroy passed to Wooller. The Geelong captain’s kick was marked by Wade thirty metres out, straight in front. The crowd screamed as it seemed the Cats would steal the game. However, Irving ran up, took the ball from Wade and gave it to Carlton fullback Peter Barry who cleared as the siren sounded. Irving had correctly paid the free kick against Wade who had reached back and grabbed Barry’s shorts.
After retirement, Irving became advisor to the VFL Reserve Grade umpires, a position he held for more than a decade. In 1972 ‘Ruffie’ became Senior Assistant advisor to the VFL senior list and held that position until the end of the 1976 season when he returned to the Reserve Grade. Hundreds of senior umpires had their careers positively influenced by Irving and were the beneficiaries of his wise counsel over many seasons.
Irving was awarded an Order of Australia in recognition of his services to umpiring. He was elected to life membership of the VFLUA in 1963.