Twenty eight years…AFLUA’s honorary historian/statistician and former goal umpire, David Flegg AM, has been going strong in his role.
Since 1994, David has been accumulating umpiring records, and researching and recording the long, proud, history of Australian Football umpiring, with a unique passion, and genuine care and interest, in the tradition of the umpiring profession.
Thanks to David’s tireless work behind the scenes week-in, week-out, Fleggy’s Facts has become a staple content on the official AFLUA social media channels. This is alongside the array of historical information he continues to contribute to our website collections and digital archive.
Looking back to the initial years when he began as AFLUA’s official historian/researcher, David said, “I took over some of the work that Leigh Keen had begun when he retired. He was responsible for producing the first complete list of VFL/AFL umpires, which appeared in the 1990 annual report. It developed slowly over time as we began investigating various elements of umpiring appointments.”
David’s contribution to the AFLUA, the VFUA, and umpiring for 37 years, has been profound. Most of his work off-field has been done in an honorary or voluntary capacity. He has done this whilst maintaining full-time employment as a research librarian with a number of government organisations. He is also the co-author of the centenary publication The Man in White – 100 years of umpiring with the VFL and the AFL. David was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for his services to umpiring.
So, what drives him to continue delving into the depths of the history books and preserving umpiring stories and records? “Quite simply, I enjoy it. I am a reference librarian by trade; and so, research is what I do. To be able to apply that knowledge to something important to so many other umpires, is very satisfying as well; and being equally challenging, frustrating and exciting,” he said.
David continued, “It comes back to recognition. Umpires have performed at the elite VFL/AFL level since 1897. To achieve one match or five hundred matches requires an enormous effort and a dedication to excellence, and this should be recognised. Umpires, field, boundary and goal, should be able to point at something and say, ‘I achieved that’.
“The Biography Project was, and remains, special, as it has brought many umpires who had been lost to the Association back within its fold. It has revealed great stories, and again, provided recognition to many, many umpires who were involved in the earlier years. It also allowed us to separate all the Murphys and the Smiths that had become muddled over time. I like solving a puzzle. It was also a team effort, but particularly the very early year work contributed by Lloyd Fisk was invaluable.”
Having dealt with so much historical information down the years, David singled out two factoids that he has found the most interesting.
“Discovering that Bob Boyle had given up his appointment running the boundary in the 1916 VFL Grand Final to field umpire, to umpire the preliminary final of the Ariah Park Association, about 60 miles from Cootamundra. His name had been attached to the game for decades,” he cited as the first one.
Adding the second case, David noted, “Discovering that Keith Pawley umpired the 1959 Hampden Football League Second Semi-final between Mortlake and Cobden at Camperdown. The match finished in a draw. It was not particularly noteworthy until you realise that the previous drawn final in that competition was the 1934 second-semi, umpired by Keith’s father, Ernest.”
The seismic shift in technology has been a massive aid, highlighted David, in gathering, preserving and distributing historical records.
He said, “The Internet has been the biggest change. It has made information previously difficult to access much more available. It has allowed manipulation and re-formatting of existing data easier, and provided a means by which the Association can easily publish what we discover.
“Software and databases such as ancestry.com, Ryerson Index, Trove, and search engines, have allowed us to more easily build both match- and biography-related umpiring data.
“Other organisations and their work have allowed their information to be more accessible, such as the Australian War Memorial; the AFL tables.”
Thank you, David, for sharing these insights, and for all the valuable work you have been doing for almost three decades in your role as the AFLUA’s historian/statistician.
David Flegg AM – Umpiring Landmarks
# Total VFL/AFL Matches – 337 (between 1990 and 2011)
# Grand Final Umpire (GOAL) – 1991 / 1993 / 2006
# Leigh Keen Shield winner – 2001 / 2002 / 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009
# All-Australian Goal Umpire – 2006
# AFLUA Member – 1988-2011
# AFLUA Heritage Number – 240
# AFLUA Life Membership – 1997
# AFLUA Lifetime Achievement Award – 2004
# AFLUA Hall of Fame inductee – 2022 (12th Ballot – 2011 to 2017)