One unusual appointment was part of the VFL National Round on 14 June 1952. Matches for premiership points were played all around country Victoria and interstate. Darrell traveled to Albury for the North Melbourne v. South Melbourne clash. The VFL were too frugal to send two boundary umpires and an emergency umpire so they economised by sending field umpire Jack Wallmeyer to partner Darrell and replace field umpire Bill Barbour if necessary.
In 1951 Darrell was working for Kenworth Rubber Company when he harked back to his leg injury. Football boots and stops were still the same and he realized that there would be a market for a safer football boot. He began developing what would become known as the ‘All rubber safety sole’. It was the first moulded sole and was made from the same material as United States Army jungle boots. The rubber would not crumble or crack and was flexible enough to allow for movement under match conditions.
At the time the VFL did not allow for anything other than leather stops. Once they had viewed the prototype and had it successfully tested by such players as Jack Hamilton and Ted Whitten the rule was changed to allow for ‘approved rubber safety soles’.
Unfortunately Darrell was unable to patent the sole because of its similarity to a previously patented hiking boot sole. He was able to register the location of the stops which prevented others from producing the optimum design but not the soles themselves. Later, after Darrell had left their employ, Kenworth attempted to claim the sole as their own, but, VFL Secretary, Eric McCutcheon, threatened to change the rule back unless Darrell was compensated. As the sole was becoming more and more popular this would have meant a big loss for the company and as a result Darrell received both money for development and a commission on all sales for three years. The advent of nylon soles saw the end of Darrell’s design but he was still a pioneer in the football footwear industry.
The year after the design hit the market and having completed 131 matches Darrell transferred from the boundary to the goals. He debuted on 18 April 1953 at the Junction Oval thereby gaining goal umpire Heritage Number 123.
As a goal umpire Darrell was very successful. His 117 matches included three further finals, two of which were the 1955 and 1959 Grand Finals. Both were easy Melbourne victories but in 1959, with only one goal separating them from Essendon at three-quarter time, Melbourne kicked 6.3 to 1.2 in the final quarter at Darrell’s end to run away with the premiership. He was also one of the umpires present at one of the more remarkable stoppages in VFL history. On 27 April 1957 Melbourne played Collingwood in the season’s first match at the MCG. Lloyd Williams broke his leg and there was a twelve minute delay while a search was conducted for the stretcher which had been locked away after Olympics. Unable to be located Williams was eventually carried off on a table top!
While he was still a goal umpire, in 1958, Darrell had taken on the role of summer training and in-season fitness coach for Richmond. Prior to the 1961 season the VFL changed its attitude to the arrangement. They told him to choose between the two and he decided to keep training Richmond. His umpiring career was complete after 248 matches, two Grand Finals and Life membership of the VFLUA, awarded in 1954.
Finishing umpiring simply changed Darrell’s football focus. He maintained his links with Richmond and, after coaching three premierships in the South-East Suburban Football League and VAFA over nineteen years, he returned to the club as Recruiting Officer from 1981-1995 and then took the same role at Melbourne from 1996-1999. Aged 80, he also rejoined the AFL as an Interchange Steward from 1995-1998.
Darrell passed away on his 91st birthday after a life dominated by football. His contribution will be long remembered.