George Smith

smith-george2George Smith was a boundary umpire all his life. The attitude and attention to fitness got him to the top on the football field and was a major factor in his reaching the 100 year mark off the field

Speaking with the Sunrayasia Daily he recalled, “I was athletic all my life, ”Exercise is the main thing, and I still ride my bike for 15 minutes every day.

“I don’t drink alcohol – the last beer I had was at the end of 1998.

“Even when I was working at a brewery, I might go for a fortnight without a drink.

“When I finished running and umpiring, I took on social golf, and I’d go with the boys to the pub to have a beer and I’d just have a small one.”

Harold George Smith was born in North Carlton on 30 December 1913 and moved to Mildura with his family as a child. At 14 he returned to Melbourne to begin a six-year apprenticeship at a shoe factory, and stayed on for 14 years.

He recalls that at the start of the Second World War, “We were making the air force boots at that particular time, so we were more or less exempt but I left work at lunchtime and walked to Russell Street and Collins Street and joined the RAAF in 1941.

“I did my course up in Shepparton, then I went on to South Australia and was there for 12 months, and then I was posted overseas.

“I got posted back from there before the squadron came back because they sent me for another course to be a physical recreation and training instructor, which I passed and became a sergeant.

“From there I was stationed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.”

It was certainly not the first time George had been to that venue.

Prior to the war he had joined the VFL as a boundary umpire from the second eighteens competition after umpiring the seconds preliminary final in 1937 which was the curtain raiser to the 1937 VFL Grand Final at the M.C.G. After making his senior debut in Round 2, 1938 at Footscray, earning Heritage Number 252, his third match was his first senior game at the M.C.G. and was busy by the standards of the day with Melbourne and South Melbourne combining for 38 goals.

His partner for his first three matches was Bruce Campbell. In the second match they both reported Hollingshead and Kelly of Essendon and Carlton respectively for striking each other. Both players were suspended.

George’s pedigree for boundary umpiring, like many in history, was an outstanding athletics career. He won the Kynteon Gift in 1936, the Keilor Girft in 1941 and a series of other professional footraces.

In 1940 George’s first final was the Melbourne versus Essendon preliminary final memorable for a storm in the last quarter, quagmire conditions and a 16 man Melbourne hanging on by five points despite having been headed as time-on approached.

As he was posted in Victoria for much of his early RAAF career George was still able to umpire part of 1942 but missed all of 1943 returning from overseas for the end of 1944.

Resuming full-time with the VFL for 1945 he umpired the Second Semi-final and then a grand final hat-trick when he officiated in the 1946, 1947 and 1948 VFL Grand Finals. Neither Smith nor partner Phil Stone were re-appointed for the replay.

While 1946 was a blow-out 1947’s one-point result and 1948’s draw were thrillers.

George hung up his boots at the end of the 1949 season with a match total of 145 VFL matches including 10 finals, 3 of which were grand finals. In his final year he was a member of the VFLUA Executive Committee.

When the Grand Final Boundary and Goal Umpires Dinner was instituted George was a regular attendee from its inception until well into his nineties despite his living in Mildura. He loved the night and could always hark back to his days on the boundary.

On 30 December 2013 George became the second VFL umpire to reach 100 years of age following one of his contemporaries Roy Allen. In fact they umpired 15 matches (2 finals) together.

George Smith passed away on 11 October 2014 at Mildura aged 100.