Well-known for his love of cricket and football, sports to which he contributed in many ways, life member Ken Woolfe passed away on 25 July 2023, aged 95.
Born 23 April 1928 in Kew he represented the Balwyn Football/Cricket club from 1945 until 1950 at both sports, winning a premiership in his first year at football in the East Suburban P.F.A. He played cricket until 1962 with various eastern suburbs clubs in the area.
Responding to an advertisement in the Sporting Globe, Ken joined the VFL Second Eighteen Grade Umpires Association in 1951 and had almost immediate success with his appointment to the 1953 VFL Under 19s Grand Final.
Promoted to the VFL senior list the following season he followed the usual VCFL route until his VFL Second Eighteen debut at Geelong in July 1955. It was a rainy day and Ken remembered, ““I was very edgy in the first half but gathered confidence in the second half.” He umpired primarily in the seconds from the start of 1956 until his first VFL match. He earned Heritage No. 224 at Punt Road Oval on 4 June 1956 in a three-point thriller as South Melbourne bested Richmond.
Over the next four seasons he compiled a record of 34 premiership and 4 night series matches before retiring following the disappointment of being overlooked for senior selection through 1960 and a growing list of business interests. In addition to his senior matches he umpired 19 VFL Reserve Grade, 97 VCFL (8 grand finals), 2 Metropolitan and 10 Tasmanian matches including the 1956 Northern Tasmanian and 1957 North-West Union Grand Finals.
Moving to the VFA for seasons 1961-62 he had more success with appointment to the 1961 VFA Grand Final.
After hanging up the whistle for family and business reasons at the end of 1962 Ken was offered a role a s VFL country observer and later the VFL Umpires’ Appointment Board. He accepted both serving 17 years and as chairman in 1973.
As part of his love for cricket, beyond playing, Ken played an instrumental role in the formation of The Australian Cricket Society where his efforts were recognised with life membership.
Ken qualified for AFLUA life membership in 2007 following three years as an associate member from 2005.
His love for football was clear when he talked about his first match at the M.C.G, “It was the thrill of a lifetime, I was too thrilled for words. There was a powerful sense of expectation when stripping to go on and the tingle when my feet hit the carpet of grass, surely no man could ask for more in a lifetime.”
Vale Kenneth William Woolfe.