Like most of us, our height and physique is partly the reason why we get into umpiring. A love of football keeps us interested. Such is the case with my next personality – who John Richard “Mossie” Moss, who was born on the 26th of October 1946 at St. Omers Hospital, Camberwell to Roy and Vera Moss. Mossie was one of 3 siblings a brother Les and a sister Rosemary, who are both deceased.
John attend Wattle Park Primary school in 1951. A keen student which meant that after his time at the primary school, Mossie attended Trinity Grammar, where he obtained his Leaving Certificate in 1963. Most will know that Trinity Grammar has featured in the news recently when the Vice-Principal cut one of the student’s hair at assembly, and all hell broke loose.
After graduating, John worked at the ANZ Bank for 18 months, then AV Jennings for 18 months, before applying for a position with the Government’s Department of Civil Aviation. Although this department has had several name changes, it has kept John employed for 34 years before he retired 18 years ago as the Manager of the Victorian/Tasmania Investigation Section. John also obtained his pilot’s license in 1966 and flew both on duty for the department and also privately for many years.
It was about this time in 1964 that John, a rover scout, would attend dances held monthly at the local scout hall in Camberwell. This is where John met his lovely wife Robyn. After several years of dating, they married at Holy Trinity Church Kew and today have three children, two boys Stuart 45 and Rohan 42 and one girl Karen 44. Seven grandchildren, Caleb, Emma, Charlie, Kellie, Darcy, Daniel and Tommy make up the Moss Family.
A keen supporter of Aussie Rules, John joined the local St Mary’s Football Club in Glen Iris playing in the Eastern Suburban Churches Competition. A regular player in the seconds it was in 1965 that the 2nds won the Premiership, one of “Mossie’s” proudest moments. 1966 saw John try out with the Hawthorn Under 19 team, but unfortunately he failed to make the list. John then decided to take up the challenge of umpiring and in 1967 applied, and was accepted, onto the VFL Reserve Grade list of umpires.
At the same time, John’s hobby was playing the piano in his spare time. John was invited to appear on the ‘Tarax’ Happy Show on Channel 9 which was compared by Happy Hammond. One appearance and John decided that playing the piano was not for him and he gave it away to concentrate on his umpiring.
In 1969 after two years on the Reserve Grade list, John was promoted with 35 other umpires onto the VFL Senior List of umpires, spending the next 8 years umpiring in the bush. John trained at Caulfield. One of his early highlights in 1971 occurred when he was appointed to a game at Nandaly in the Southern Mallee League. After the match all umpires, in fact 15 umpires from 4 competitions, would stay at the Royal Mail Hotel in Wycheproof. This is where the fun began for during the night it was mentioned to the band leader that we had a celebrity in our midst, an international singer who had just finished a cabaret season in Sydney, by the name of Johnny Moss. The band leader called “Mossie” up to perform. John started to sing ‘Ol Shep’, unfortunately, John was flatter than the beer poured at the Royal Mail. In fact, he was so flat that the publican Jack Hart almost threw the umpires out of the hotel for the night. All in good fun.
In 1974, John was appointed to the role of VFLUA Secretary, a position he held for 3 years. Now word was filtering back to headquarters that a young umpire by the name of Moss, was performing well around the bush so he was promoted onto the intermediate training squad coached by Harold Hodgson. Not long after that, John was promoted to Olympic Park, the umpires’ premier training track. After being observed by the VFL observers where “Mossie” more than lived up to expectations, he was appointed to his first VFL Reserve Grade game in 1976 between South Melbourne and Fitzroy at the Lakeside Oval. Later that year he was appointed to the Southern Mallee Grand Final between Hopetoun v. Beulah played at Rainbow.
1977 was a stellar year for “Mossie”, not only did he become a life member of our association, he was nominated and awarded the Bishop Shield, an award named after one of the VFL senior umpires Barry “Bishop” Sheen, who was tragically killed in a motor car accident. He started the year with four game in the bush. In round 5 he was brought back into the VFL Reserve Grade and finished off the year knocking on the door of senior selection completing the year with 15 Reserve games and 4 finals in the bush.
Starting off 1978 in the Reserve Grade, it wasn’t long before John was appointed to his first VFL Senior game between Collingwood and Fitzroy at VFL Park with Ian Robinson on 29 July. John’s Heritage number is 282. John acknowledged this was the highlight of his career thus far. After four matches at the top level, John was sent back to the bush, but not before having been appointed to two grand finals, one in Tasmania in the Western Tasmania F.L. Queenstown d. Toorak at Queenstown on the gravel oval. Now that’s an experience. The other GF was in the Tatiara League, Keith d. Bordertown at Kaniva to finish off the year. This wasn’t the end of a very successful year as John was the winner of the Victorian Football League Courage Award. John was also Trip Manager for the umpires’ end of season trip to Sydney.
In 1979 John was nominated and elected President of the VFLUA. He had a big year ahead. The first 7 games of 1979 saw John in the reserves but in round 8 he regained his spot in the seniors until the last round of the year. During the year he was appointed to two Inter-league games Ballarat v. Western Border at Ballarat and the Australian Amateurs v. the Northern Territory at VFL Park. To finish off the year he was appointed to the Latrobe Valley Grand Final, Leongatha d. Traralgon at Moe.
John started 1980 in the Seniors, but unfortunately after round two he lost his place and after many reserve games, was sent out on rotation umpiring an inter-league game where Western Border lost to Latrobe Valley at Coleraine. To finish off his year John umpired the Sunraysia Grand Final where Red Cliffs defeated Mildura. This was to be his last appointment on the senior list as John had advised the league of his intention to retire some weeks earlier.
The Chairman of the Victorian Amateur Football Association was looking for an Umpires’ Advisor for season 1981. He rang John out of the blue and offered “Mossie” the position. He was appointed Umpire’s Director, a position he held for 4 years. One of the umpires that John coached was Wayne Hinton who went on to umpire five AFL senior games. At the end of his fourth year at the amateurs, AFL Umpire’s Director Bill Deller, who John looked up to, approached John to become an observer at AFL senior matches which “Mossie” jumped at, completing 12 years in that role as an observer until he retired.
In 2006, Kevin Smith, who had been appointed Umpires’ Director in the Eastern Football League, approached John to become the Umpires’ Development officer which he did for 2 years. In 2008 John was inducted into the AFLUA Hall of Fame. John was also a member of the AFLUA Centenary History Publication Sub-Committee.
When Kevin Smith moved over to the Northern Football League “Mossie was invited to come along and chair the tribunal, it’s only a rumour he was the hanging judge.
After his time as Chairman of the tribunal, John and wife Robyn have taken numerous overseas trips to Europe, England and the U.S.A. and apart from travel he lives a quiet life, passing his time watching sport on Foxtel. John was asked what he thought of football today, after a short deliberation he said, “Different game to what we were brought up on, I admire the umpires for making senior level today.” The only thing that stresses him out is watching his beloved Collingwood and their performances. John loves English comedy and reading sporting books.
Due to a recent health scare, when he had a heart attack in 2016, John spent some time in hospital following surgery with 5 bypasses. Fully recovered now, he attends the gym every morning to keep himself fit.
Today John is a voluntary Tour Guide at the Melbourne Cricket Club, a position he has held since 2000. He has been a MCC member for 55 years. John is also an active attendee at the association’s social functions. Well done Mossie on an outstanding career.
20 – VFL Senior Games
46 – VFL Reserve Grade Games
3 – VFL Senior Night Games
15 – VCFL Finals
5 – VCFL Grand Finals
3 – VCFL Inter-League matches
143 – VCFL Matches
TOTAL: 235 games.
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows