A long time umpire and dedicated association contributor, Dud Ridley will be remembered for his support of up and coming umpires, his vast country league experience and his friendliness to all. Perhaps all this is best summed up by Ray Sleeth who noted, “All I can say is that he was a ‘bloody good’ bloke – period.
Dudley Lennard Ridley was born the eldest of three sons to Thomas and Laura Ridley on 29 November 1915 at Jeparit in Victoria’s Wimmera region.
He joined the VFLUA in 1949 and so began seventeen years as a VFL field umpire. He umpired a remarkable 362 VCFL matches including 42 Grand Finals in 23 competitions. In a classic example of leagues requesting umpires the Southern Mallee League requested and received Dudley for its Grand Finals in 1956-1960 and 1963.
In addition to the VCFL he umpired 5 Second Eighteen , 26 Tasmanian and two Metropolitan league matches – a total of 395 appointments.
His extensive career was recognised with the presentation of a VCFL Special Medallion upon his retirement.
Through this time Dudley was always willing to share his vast experience with younger umpires. Life member Ian Wallace recalls one of many instances.
“I remember Dudley as strong and solid physically and a fine man. My most treasured recollection of him was after a 1964 trip to the Stawell ground in the Wimmera League when I umpired the Stawell v. Rapunyip. “On the late night train trip back to Melbourne Dudley found the time to break away from the senior umpires traditional drinking cabin and called me into a cabin on our own to discuss my performance that day. He gave me great advice that I was able to use throughout the remainder of my umpiring career and coaching years in Sydney and Queensland.”
In his fifth year on the list Dudley become involved with the VFLUA. Taking a position on the Executive Committee in 1953, he served for two more years in that role. He was elected President in 1958 and received Life Membership of the VFLUA the following year. He retired from the VFL at he conclusion of the 1965 season but continued his connection with the VFLUA by regularly providing the presentation President’s gavel well into the 1970s.
In the so called swinging sixties, Dudley rode his bicycle to and from work and to and from training. On training nights he would pedal into the Yarraville Football Ground with his gladstone bag containing his training gear on the handlebars of his bike.
Dudley was Training Supervisor at the Yarraville track for many years. His innovative training regimes and skill drills were based on patterns of play and match demands and the young umpires who progressed through the Yarraville group were extremely well prepared to cope with the challenges that lay ahead. He was years before his time in the preparation and training of umpires. In 1970 Dudley was appointed advisor to the East Suburban Churches Football League.
A revered and respected umpire over a long period of time, in fact, in an era when there was compulsory retirement for goal umpires at fifty years of age, Dudley was still umpiring A Grade country football when many suspected that he was too old to be a goal umpire.
He was truly a doyen of umpires in a Golden Era. An era in which the heritage and traditions of VFL umpiring were forged upon the values of respect and integrity and became the legacy that was passed onto future generations.
Dudley Ridley passed away on 10 April 2005 at Bindaree Retirement Centre, Mansfield aged 89. One of nature’s and umpiring’s gentlemen.