Long time goal umpire, innovative coach and AFLUA Life Member Jim Mahoney’s contribution to football in general and goal umpiring in particular was significant and his achievements hold a place in football history that will stand the test of time.
James Francis Mahoney was born on 17 November 1931 at Newton, NSW.
After finishing playing football in the Port Melbourne area he decided to take up goal umpiring in 1959 aged 27. He would later say that, “I’ve only got one regret – that I didn’t leave junior football at an earlier age and take up field umpiring.” He earned Heritage Number 148. with his VFL debut in 1965 – South Melbourne v. St.Kilda at the Lake Oval.
In an era of great full forwards Jim saw them all close up. Peter McKenna’s 12 goals in round 1 1965, Peter Hudson’s 12 goals against Footscray in 1968 and the Hudson-Wade shootout in front of 30,000 at Kardinia Park in 1969 to name just a few.
In 1971 Jim achieved the umpiring dream of a VFL Grand Final. It would be ten years before Jim would grace Grand Final Day again but in the years that passed he built an enviable record. He registered two hundred VFL games in 1976 and three seasons later he passed Tom Rossiter for what was believed to be the record by a goal umpire when he umpired his 250th match.
Having been made a VFLUA Life Member in 1974, his greatest service to other umpires may have followed his on-field career which finished after his second Grand Final in 1981 on a total of 289 VFL matches (14 finals). Jim would give another six years to goal umpiring as the inaugural VFL Goal Umpires Advisor. His term was a watershed for goal umpiring.
For the first time goalies had a recognised coach and with Assistant Coach Barry Page and a panel of former goal umpires as observers he began coaching his squad with the experience and a philosophy from his own career. Physical fitness became a priority, all matches were observed and assessed by a goal umpires observer and over a number of years the average age of the list began to drop as younger men were given opportunities at the highest level. The age restriction was removed – it was whether an umpire could do the job. In short he, his coaches and his umpires laid the foundations for twenty-first century goal umpiring.
Jim retired at the end of 1987 after six seasons in the role and with much respect from his umpires for the results he had achieved.
James Mahoney passed away on 26 November 2004 at Mildura Base Hospital after a long fight with cancer. It was a fight he waged strongly and valiantly. He adopted the same attitude to it that he applied to his final umpiring years. “Other blokes told me to forget about finals but I said ‘bugger it’, I’ll give my best shot till the last game.”