The AFLUA was saddened to learn that Life Member and Lifetime Achievement Recipient Ted ‘Teddy’ Johnson recently passed away.
Ted Johnson gave sixty years of service to Australian football as an umpire, trainer and stalwart of the AFL Umpires’ Association. His acerbic wit was cast upon generations of umpires and returned in kind.
Born on 14 June 1939 in Carlton, his parents named him Leslie Edward, however he would be known universally in football as Ted.
As a teenager he tried out with Melbourne Under 19s but was unsuccessful. In 1956, encouraged by his cousin and VFLUA life member Bob Flanagan, he began umpiring on the boundary with the VFL Second 18s. After nine seasons he put in a single year as a field umpire before transferring to the goals in 1967.
It was between the sticks that Ted excelled. Appointed to the 1970 VFL Under 19s Grand Final he was one of three goal umpires promoted to the VFL senior list the following season.
He debuted in Round 3 at the Western Oval with Footscray getting up by a goal over South Melbourne and earning Heritage No. 160.
In an era of great full forwards Ted’s highlights over the years included Peter Hudson’s 10 goals against Melbourne in 1971, his eight-goal return from injury in 1973 and of course Malcolm Blight’s 60 metre torpedo to sink Carlton after the siren in 1976.
After 11 seasons and eight finals Ted reached the pinnacle with appointment to the 1982 VFL Grand Final. He claimed to remember little of the match other than the female streaker, but he was in the action early as his first goal came 20 seconds into the match and the second another 20 seconds after the ensuing restart.
Ted retired from umpiring at the finish of the 1986 season having umpired 264 VFL premiership matches (11 finals) and numerous night competition matches, among them the 1981 night grand final. He had received life membership of the AFLUA in 1981.
Immediately following his umpiring departure Ted was appointed an umpires’ trainer. He spent the next 29 years looking after the wellbeing of all running umpires. More than 20 of those years were as head trainer. The role encompassed not only match day but all training nights, an enormous commitment over such a long time. His final match as a trainer was the 2015 AFL Grand Final. The AFLUA had recognised his long service with a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to umpiring by a life member in 1995.
Ted’s involvement did not stop in 2015 due to his support of the AFLUA’s X-men. Here he worked with Ron Bailey staying in contact with former members and keeping them up with the news from the association. Ron and Ted’s work laid the groundwork for this successful and on-going program.
Supporter of many and a friend to all Ted Johnson passed away on 12 October 2023, aged 84, and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Written by David Flegg AM – AFLUA Historian and Statistician