Mal Henderson began his senior VFL career as a boundary umpire when he was elevated from the Second Eighteen competition as a one-week replacement for round three 1947. It earned him Heritage Number 285 and, while his second match was not until the following season, by the end of his career there was nothing he had not achieved in the VFL arena.
Born 16 November 1928 Malcolm Rennie Henderson grew up in East Coburg and Camberwell. He joined the VFL Second Eighteen umpires in 1946. Following his single-game debut in 1947 he returned to the seconds until the mid-season 1948. The retirement of Archie Campbell created an opportunity on the Senior Boundary List and Mal was promoted to fill it.
Beginning in 1951 Mal had a four-year run of finals series appearances that culminated in the 1954 Grand Final. The 1952 Second Semi was probably the most exciting match of his finals. A heavily favoured Carlton kicked poorly early on but nevertheless drew level with Fitzroy with only a minute remaining. In the dying seconds Mal blew the ball out deep in the Fitzroy forward line and from his ensuing throw-in Alan Rutheven broke away to snap the match-winning behind.
The Grand Final year of 1954 was followed by a year in which Mal’s umpiring experience was more varied than usual. The Umpires Appointment Board selected a number of senior boundary umpires to officiate as field umpires in the VCFL. Mal went to the Yarra Valley Football League in April and the Mornington Peninsula League in July. He did not do a VFL final that year but did go to the Alberton League to boundary umpire the Grand Final at Yarram. His only interstate match came that year when Victoria defeated Western Australia. The following season he was back on track with his last final – the Preliminary – and the 1956 Night Grand Final.
In his final season Mal officiated in the ANFC Centenary of Football Carnival and was also awarded Life Membership of the VFLUA. Over his career Henderson umpired 160 VFL matches including five finals.
Mal passed away on 2 November 2008.