A football involvement spanning four decades in capacities ranging from player to umpire to umpire observer to VFLUA stalwart set Peter Matheson out from many others. His contribution to umpiring in various roles spanned 33 seasons and saw him as a 2010 inductee into the AFL Umpires’ Association Hall of Fame.
A recurring shoulder injury forced his retirement from playing football and seeking to remain involved Peter turned to umpiring by joining the VFL Reserve Grade in 1964. This after having won the East Suburban Protestant Churches Football Association best and fairest in 1960 as a speedy centreman representing Malvern South Methodists.
His rise through the umpiring ranks was also speedy. Promotion to the senior list came in 1966, the Reserve Grade in round three 1968 and a VFL senior debut in round 13 the same year. That first VFL match was a ripper with St.Kilda coming from behind late in the third quarter to hang on over a fast finishing Melbourne. The appointment earned Matheson Heritage No. 255 and a spot in the seniors for the remainder of the season including a night series match and finally five VCFL finals including the Mornington and Bendigo league grand finals.
The following year Matheson began in the seniors but a six-week spell in the reserves and country was followed by two further matches. The second of these proved interesting to historians as later that year Matheson’s report of Footscray’s Georgie Bissett may have cost him the Brownlow Medal. Bissett kicked six goals that day winning best on ground plaudits from many scribes but both he and Carlton’s Ian Robertson were reported for striking each other. Both players were subsequently found not guilty at the tribunal and speculation abounded later in the year as Bissett fell a single vote short of Kevin Murray when the Brownlow votes were tallied.
Matheson returned to senior ranks two years later and finished 1971 with six VFL home and away and five VCFL finals matches. The final three VFL matches of his 23 day-2 night match VFL career came at the start of the 1972 season. They accompanied 39 Reserve Grade, 153 VCFL (11 grand finals), 2 Tasmanian and 2 Metropolitan league matches. Like his first his final VFL senior match was a terrific contest described by The Age as “What this game didn’t have isn’t worth having… fast, open play-on game… seven goals straight in 13 minutes…the biggest, most spiteful all-in brawl… one of the most exciting and tightest last quarters.”
Through almost his entire career with the VFLUA Matheson served the association in some capacity: on the Social Committee 1968, the Executive Committee 1969-70 and the progression to president in 1973. His final year on the list he served again on the Executive Committee. These services were rewarded with a Lifetime Achievement (Special) Award in 1976 the same year he received his 10-year life membership. His presidential year proved formidable as the VFLUA undertook to challenge the VFL over its allocation of finals tickets for umpires. Threatened strike action was averted through direct negotiations between Matheson, VFLUA Secretary Graeme Patterson and VFL Secretary, Eric McCutheon. On another aspect of association service there probably wasn’t an umpires trip to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide or overseas in which Peter didn’t have a hand and he was also coach and umpire of various umpires’ teams when they took on the Pentridge inmates.
It was an indication of his dedication and enjoyment of his involvement at executive level that he regularly attended the annual presidents and secretaries lunches.
After his retirement at the end of the 1975 season ‘Matho’ immediately took on the role of VFL field umpires observer, a role he filled until 1987 when he moved on to the VAFA in the same capacity and worked until 1997.
Peter Matheson passed away 4 June 2017, one of the association’s greats.