Leslie Dalker Koochew was born in Kyneton on 9 July 1923 the son of Wally Koochew, former Carlton Football Cub player and the first ever VFL footballer with Chinese heritage. Les had few memories of his father who died when he was young but was proud of his achievements. It is most likely that Les himself led the way in VFL umpiring ranks as the first ‘man in white’ of Chinese descent.
Speaking to Tony DeBolfo in 2003 Les said, “I believe nationality has nothing to do with football,’ he said. ‘It shouldn’t matter where you’re born or what you look like. It doesn’t mean a thing.”
Les began his umpiring career officiating for suburban clubs and was accepted onto the VFL list of field umpires in 1948. He travelled Victoria for twelve of the next fourteen seasons missing only 1952 and 1954 before his retirement at the conclusion of 1961. He had received Life Membership of the VFLUA the previous year.
His final total was 177 VCFL matches (11 finals).
The friendships that Les made in umpiring were important and enduring. No long before his death when asked his most memorable moment he answered not a Grand Final, not a close game and not a great decision but, “When my umpiring colleagues George Hamid and Frank Leverett journeyed to Bendigo to attend my wedding. It was a great expression of comradeship.” And clearly one that stayed with him throughout his life.
Les Koochew died on 18 March 2005, aged 81.