As a contributor to the AFLUA, Ron Bailey’s service covered two spans totalling 23 years, and was part of a life of helping the entire community well beyond the bounds of football.

Ronald Keith Bailey as born on 15 February 1942 in Elsternwick, and grew up in Tynong before his family returned to the city and to Abbotsford. His life was almost ended when he was struck by a motor car but made a full recovery although it took several years for him to become fully fit. When he was, he played school football and later for Sandringham (VFA) thirds. After a season of limited chances, he began umpiring in the VFA where his father was a goal umpire.

In 1966, he moved from the VFA to the VFL senior list, by-passing the reserves competition. Over the next seven seasons, he accumulated 112 VCFL and 3 Metropolitan matches but he was perhaps best known for his mid-week matches. Between the schools, the public service and the tramways competitions, he umpired 59 matches, including his only grand final – the 1967 Tramways decider – where he was cheered off the ground after an excellent performance.

After a year on the social committee in 1971, Ron retired at the end of 1972 and moved on from the VFL to the East Suburban Churches Competition. It was closer to home and less travel. He retired from football in 1981 and joined Victoria Police.

Fast forward to 2005. It was during his sick leave from a nervous breakdown that Ron was approached by AFLUA CEO, Bill Deller, and offered a position as the Association’s welfare officer. Ron took on the job with a passion and ultimately organised regular X-Umpire events at Mornington and Darebin. At their peak, Ron had 100 former umpires with whom he was in regular contact. Added to that, he made many hospital visits and talked to many people providing support in difficult times. Often the work would take him out of his way. The late Ross Raphael was legally blind and almost deaf, and Ron travelled from Eltham to Bentleigh, quite often once a week, to escort Ross to lodge as well as umpire functions.

Awarded AFLUA honorary life membership in 2010, such was the value of his work that this was augmented in 2015 with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In the words of former AFLUA CEO Peter Howe, “Ron is the glue that binds our X-umpires together.” This was illustrated when over 45 X-umpires made a special effort to attend Ron’s lunch to recognise the work he has done for the Association for more than 15 years.

Failing health slowed but did not stop Ron in more recent years, and while the task of organising was passed on, he continued to attend luncheons, as boisterous and smiling as ever. It was a shock to the umpiring fraternity when news of his passing on 19 October 2022 circulated the members.

Ron will be missed greatly by the umpiring fraternity for the kindness, support, humour and friendship that he showed to all he met.


Article written by – David Flegg AM

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