Hello all I’m back for another series of ‘where are they now?’  In this edition we turn back the clock to 1976 and check in on:


Ian James “Benny” Bennett, is a name you will all know if you are an avid follower of channel 31 “The Local Football Show”, seen on Friday nights at 7pm.  A co-producer, co-presenter and promoter of local football throughout Victoria on free to air TV, “Benny” has been an umpire’s man all his life.

Born Ian James Bennett in Oakleigh Victoria, on the 8th November 1953 to James & Dorothy Bennett, Benny’s father passed away 20 years ago and today his mother is a ripe old age of 91.  Ian is the eldest of 3 siblings, a sister Susan and a brother Alan.

His early years around the Chadstone area saw Ian attend Chadstone Park Primary School and later his education progressed at Chadstone High School. His sporting activities started as a 10 year old playing U/16 cricket with Oakleigh Cricket Club. He played 198 junior and senior games at Oakleigh, rising rapidly through the X1’s to become a regular senior cricketer and having success as an opening batsman at Sub District Cricket level. He also had two years at St Kilda in District Cricket.

In 1965 Ian started playing football in the Under 14’s with South Oakleigh Methodists, in a Saturday afternoon competition after playing junior tennis in the mornings. After being out of football for 3 years, football came back to Ian’s attention and in 1969 he played with his school mates in the Under 17’s at Chadstone. This lasted for 1 year and after a badly broken nose, decided another challenge was needed and he took up baseball with Oakleigh for 2 years.

It was in 1973  that Ian noticed an advertisement in the local paper for umpires in the South East Suburban Football League under the coaching of former VFL Senior list umpire Bob Dight. Ian, needing the money, took up the challenge and the fuse was lit.  In 1974, Ian applied to the Victorian Football League Reserve Grade, was accepted and attended Richmond Tech to be coached by Don Jolly. He was taken aback by the number of umpires in attendance. During the 1975 season whilst still on the Reserve Grade, Ian was promoted to officiate at a Senior List match in the Alberton Football League and after only two seasons on the Reserve Grade list, Ian was promoted onto the senior list in 1976, training with the boys at Caulfield.

It did not take long for Ian to be noticed and with some excellent observer reports a promotion into the VFL Reserves was soon on the cards. This all came about on Sunday 13th July 1980 when Ian was appointed to the St. Kilda v. South Melbourne reserve grade game at the Lake Oval. Unfortunately, some of the most embarrassing moments in his umpiring career came whilst umpiring VFL reserves.  In one match, Ian got so confused with the team sheet that he awarded the Carlton runner (former premiership and champion player) David McKay votes in the Best and Fairest, the Gardiner Medal.

In another match between North Melbourne v Fitzroy at a centre bounce, Ian knocked out North Melbourne’s ruckman Mick Nolan. The other ruckman from Fitzroy was former Collingwood great, Len Thompson. Ian was backing out when Mick’s chin collided with Ian’s head knocking “The Galloping Gasometer” out cold. Mick needed smelling salts from the trainer to bring him around. 

His third and most physically demanding moment came after he umpired Carlton v Hawthorn reserves, both teams scored 34 goals, but that was not the end as Ian had been appointed as an emergency umpire for the senior match that followed.  A double header, and low and behold Hawthorn’s David O’Halloran and boundary umpire Paul Nichols collided just before half time and Paul was unable to continue. You guessed it after 68 goals, Ian had to run the second half of the seniors on the boundary. During the final quarter, he was looking for petrol tickets but did get through the experience. Bill Deller was the observer on the day and at the meeting during the week complimented Ian for a “blood in the boots” performance.  Ian really enjoyed the 4k fitness time trial at training on the Tuesday night!

Ian represented the Association on the Executive Committee in 1983 & 1984.

During his time on the senior list Ian considered the highlights were being thought of and respected as a top country umpire. Three inter-league games, 1982 Western Border v Ballarat at Coleraine partnered with Greg Sidebottom and in 1983 North Central v Ballarat at St Arnaud partnered with Peter Howe. The 3rd Inter-league in 1984, was the Mornington Peninsula v Alberton at Mount Eliza, partnered by Vas Vasallou. Ian also was appointed to two grand finals in ’83, the first in the Tatiara Football League, Mundulla v Bordertown at Bordertown partnered by Shane Nolan and the other was Kiewa-Sandy Creek v. Holbrook at Sandy Creek which ended in a draw and was a one umpire situation. Ian Clayton returned to umpire the rematch.

Another highlight was being appointed to a game at Waverley, a curtain raiser to a night game in which Collingwood played the Herald-Sun All Stars.

1986 saw Ian receive his life membership to the then VFLUA.

The VFL created a new list of umpires called the Cadet Squad later to be renamed the Development Squad, under the coaching of Glenn James, and this is where Ian saw his future.  He took up the role of Assistant Advisor / Observer to the younger Umpires. Ian claims that this was a fantastic experience steering young umpires’ careers on the right path, guiding and influencing them to be better umpires as well as outstanding men in the community. Unfortunately, good things do not last as after 6 years coaching, the VFL disbanded the VFL Under 19 competition, as well as the Development Squad due to the creation of the Australian Football League.

Ian having tasted the coaching of umpires, in 1992 applied and was appointed Umpires Director at the Southern Football League, a position he held for eight years. He was awarded Life Membership of the Southern Football League Umpires’ Association as well as the Southern Football League itself. He was also awarded a Recognition of Service Award by the VMFL for his umpire coaching achievements.

In 1990 while on holidays at Safety Beach he met his wife Barbara.  Ian has two step daughters – Alison and husband Christian have 2 boys Charlie 10 and Joel 7 whilst Joanne and husband Craig have two daughters, Jade 4 and Mila 2. Ian is self-employed with Corporate Design Pty Ltd fitting out offices, a position he has held for 35 years.      

Whilst Coaching umpires in the Southern Football League Ian was also involved into a media role with The Southern Footy Show promoting the Southern Football League on free to air television on Channel 31. The opportunity came along to cover all local football from around the state on THE LOCAL FOOTY SHOW . Ian co-produces and co-presents the show which promotes local footy and shines the spotlight on the people who make local football clubs tick.  Do yourself a favour! If you have not seen the telecast, have a look on Friday nights at 7pm. Or at the replay on Saturday mornings at 9am.  Ian states that local footy excites him.  

Ian has a passion for making his own beer and is the President of the Melbourne Home Brew Club and has taken out awards in beer competitions.

During the last 3 years, Ian has also taken over the making of goal umpire sticks, and his wife Barbara makes the flags for goal umpires all over Australia. He walks regularly for fitness, and enjoys a good laugh and a chat. He does gets annoyed with political correctness and he cannot stand people being dishonest.  Something that has been engrained from his experiences as an umpire.

Ian travelled to England & Europe for the first time in 1977 between football seasons, and has been back there 8 times since. At present, he is reading and enjoying a book called “Behind the Goals – History of the Victorian Country Football Leagues”, written by Paul Daffey.           

His favourite people in umpiring are Bill Deller OAM, “the doyen of umpiring,” the for the way he was able to change the perception of umpiring in the eyes of the general public as well as football people, paving the way for the umpires of today and for the common sense and honest way of dealing with people. Glenn James for his leadership and friendship professionally and socially, and the great times had on the Development Squad, and Peter Cameron for coaxing him onto the VFL Reserve Grade in the very first instance.           

In conclusion, I’m thrilled to announce that the government have relented and granted Channel 31 an extension on their licence, which means The Local Footy Show will be back on air for this coming season which is great news for all local footy fans and the multi-talented, Ian “Benny” Bennett.

For the record

1953;-  Born to James & Dorothy Bennett at Oakleigh

1958;- Attended Chadstone Park Primary

1963;- Played U/16 cricket at Oakleigh

1965;- Attended Chadstone High School

          -Played football with the South Oakleigh Methodist Under 14’s

1969;- Played football with Chadstone Under 17’s

1970;- Played Cricket with Oakleigh Sub District Cricket Club First XI

          – Played Baseball with Oakleigh Baseball Club

1973;- Applied and Accepted to Umpire in the South East Suburban Football League

1974;- Applied & Accepted to Umpire on the V.F.L. Reserve Grade List

1976;- Promoted onto the V.F.L. Senior List of Umpires

1977;- Travelled to England & Europe during the off season.

1980;- Appointed to first V.F.L. Reserve Grade game – St.K v. Sth Melb.

1982;- Appointed to Inter-League Game Western Border v. Ballarat at Coleraine

1983;- Appointed to Inter-League Game Nth Central v. Ballarat at St Arnaud.

1984;- Appointed to Inter-League Game Mornington Peninsula v. Alberton at Mt Eliza

1983;- Elected to represent the Umpires Association on the Executive Committee (2 yrs)

         – VCFL Grand Final Tatiara Football League Boardertown v Mundalla

         – VCFL Grand Final Tallangatta Football League Keiwa – Sandy Creek v Holbrook

1986;- Awarded Life Membership of the V.F.L.U.A.

1986;- Applied & Accepted, Assistant Advisor to Glenn James, Development squad (6 yrs)

1992;- Appointed Umpires Director to the Southern Football League (8 yrs)

1999;- VMFL Recognition of Service Award


15 – VFL reserve grade games

 2 –   VCFL grand finals

16 – VCFL  finals matches

 3  –  VCFL inter-league games

129 – VCFL games

 1 –   VFL senior game as a boundary umpire

TOTAL   166 games


Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme “Wizzer” Fellows



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