There are few more iconic (or replayed) moments than Barry Breen’s final kick in the 1966 VFL Grand Final. Few outside the umpiring fraternity would even notice the man in the white coat standing under the premiership procuring punt, but many goal umpires would cast a wistful eye and wish to be in the same position as Les Barratt. The match was one highlight in ten years with the senior VFL field and goal umpire list and numerous years with the VFL Reserve Grade.
Les passed away suddenly on 25 March in Queensland leaving behind many other memories from memorable career.
Les began with the VFL after his promotion to the Senior field umpires list in 1952 and held that position for three seasons. While he did not umpire Reserve Grade football his last match was a final in the Kowee-Narracoorte League in September 1954.
Taking up the goals was a natural progression in those years but by this time experience needed to be gained on the Reserve Grade List. Les gained that experience and was promoted to the VFL Senior list in 1964 with Bryan Grant and Ray Schwensen. In that first year he umpired thirteen matches including a sensational draw between Essendon and Geelong. Ken Fraser was felled after scoring a behind at Les’s end 33 minutes into the last quarter. He declined risking the behind with another kick, Les registered the behind and the siren sounded.
Success came quite quickly with appointment to the Preliminary Final in 1965 and the following year the first of three Grand Finals.
The last quarter of 1966 Grand Final was a remarkable stanza in a remarkable match. Les was at the City End with St.Kilda attacking his goal. There were four points the difference at the start and after nine minutes, a goal to Moran and a couple of behinds the Saints led by thirteen. Collingwood came back and the game see-sawed until Des Tuddeham leveled scores with two minutes and time-on to go. Finally, after two minutes of time-on, with the crowd going crazy, Breen grabbed the ball from a bounce and sent a long, bouncing kick through for a behind that was signaled by Les. Not a tough decision but historic in the context of the VFL competition and the Saints only flag to date.
Backing up is never easy but Les had another sensational year in 1967 and was rewarded with another Grand Final. Again it was a corker and again it was a drought breaker with Richmond scoring their first premiership since 1942 by nine points
The third Grand Final Les umpired was 1969. For three quarters fortunes fluctuated and there were some terrific goals but the Tigers drew away in the last quarter to take the flag. The following year was the last for Les, he umpired the First-Semi and then retired.
Since his senior debut, when he became the 145 th VFL goal umpire, he had umpired 114 matches and one interstate fixture, Victoria versus South Australia in 1968.
Jim Barwick, who was a contemporary of Les in both the field and goals summed him up very simply as “a thorough gentleman”. They had met when sharing a practice match at Princes Park in 1950, had a few drinks afterwards and were friends for life. In fact Les asked him to umpire his fiftieth match at the Lake Oval and they and their wives celebrated the occasion together.
Having lived in Ringwood, Les visited Buderim in Queensland for a holiday and felt that it might be a good place to live. He gathered the whole family around the dinner table to discuss the move and they decided to go north.
Leslie George Barratt was a very successful goal umpire, loyal friend and loved family man. He will be missed by all who knew him.