In early 2002 the umpiring fraternity lost two popular and respected members in Geoff Lee and Vas Vasiliou. While neither was a Life Member of the AFLUA, both were a part of umpiring history. Geoff for his prowess on the boundary, including two VFL Grand Finals in the early seventies, and Vas for his pocket battleship physique, swarthy appearance and his energetic control of VFL matches that made him somewhat of an early eighties umpiring character.
Geoffrey Raymond Lee was born in Melbourne on 28 July 1942.
He joined the senior list of VFL boundary umpires in 1969 after having umpired the VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final the previous year. Umpiring was in his blood as Geoff’s father, Jack, was an outstanding boundary and goal umpire in the VFL during the post World War Two era, officiating in 314 VFL games, including 3 VFL Grand Finals. They are one of the few umpiring father and son combinations to have both achieved VFL Grand Final status.
Jack encouraged Geoff to take on umpiring at an early age and it was only eight years after he started that Geoff won promotion to umpiring’s highest level — VFL football. Between 1969 and 1974 he ran the boundary in 102 senior VFL matches, a total that included six finals of which two were Grand Finals.
The 1971 and 1972 Grand Finals could not have been more different. 1971 was played in wet conditions and 23 goals were scored. The drama was provided by Peter Hudson’s search for his 151st goal of the season as Hawthorn took the flag by 7 points. A year later, the story was completely different. Fifty goals were kicked in a speedy match played in warm, sunny conditions. At one stage in the second quarter, Carlton piled on four goals in four minutes and, between them, Richmond and the Blues kicked 12 for the quarter.
It was a real ‘boundary killer’ but Geoff and his partner, Kevin Mitchell, handled it with aplomb.
No doubt Geoff’s running experience in professional athletics assisted him in his career on the boundary. He produced many successful results including winning the 880 yards event at Stawell on more than one occasion.
As a regular attendee at the AFL Grand Final Umpires’ Dinner Geoff enjoyed getting together with his former running mates. They will remember him as a gentleman — a “decent bloke” with a quiet, gentle nature who went about the business of umpiring and life with no fuss, never seeking the limelight or pursuing self aggrandisement.
Geoff Lee passed away on Australia Day 2002 after a battle with serious illness. He was 59 years old.