My next ‘Where are they Now’ has been a football fanatic ever since he could walk. Having been brought up in a football environment, where his father Clifford was a trainer with the Footscray Football Club Reserves team who won the premiership in 1962, following football was mandatory. It was this reason that William Clifford ‘Prydy’ Pryde, known to most in umpiring circles as Bill, became a Footscray (or Western Bulldogs supporter) and takes up a membership every year.

            Bill was born three months premature on the 4th June 1945 to Clifford (Dec.) and Annie (Dec) Pryde at the family home in Victoria St. Footscray. Attending the Footscray Primary School from 1951 to 1956, then the Footscray High School, he graduated in 1960. Leaving school Bill had several occupations; that was until he applied for a position with Loch M. Fraser P/L as a Shipping Clerk and Custom Agent in 1966. He won the position and spent the next 30 years with that company.

            At the recommendation of VFL Boundary Umpire Des Fitzgerald, in 1964 bill joined the Victorian Football League Reserve Grade umpires list to run the boundary. After three years Bill caught the umpiring bug and decided to swap over to the field in 1967. Whilst in th VFLRG Bill officiated Grand Finals in the Federal, Diamond Valley and Eastern F.L. One of Bill’s highlights whilst on the Reserve Grade was to be appointed emergency to Ray Sleeth in the VFL Seconds Semi Final at the M.C.G. in 1969.

In 1970 Bill was invited to join the VFL Senior List of umpires training at the Tuesday/Thursday Royal park track. His first game as a field umpire on the Senior List was in the Mid Gippsland F.L. where Trafalgar 14.19 d.  Newborough 8.13. Since arriving on the Senior List Bill had another occupation. You could find him with his head in the boot of his car supplying umpiring gear to his colleagues, at a cost of course.

            Unfortunately, in 1972 whilst umpiring in Ardlethan in the NSW South West League, Bill broke his leg in the first quarter of the first game of the year when he stood in a hole on the oval.  His fellow umpire Ian Brown also injured himself and the pair spent several hours in the Wagga Base Hospital. The third umpire David Mitchell spent his time pacifying both, and the two injured were told to get to the train station and catch the 2 am to Melbourne.  It wasn’t until the next day that Bill – loaded up on pain killers – finally made it to the Footscray & District hospital to have his leg reset and plastered.

            1972 saw the umpires Association venture on a trip to Fiji with Bill Pryde on board. On the first night on the Australis Ocean Liner, ‘Bill Collins’ Pryde excited the crowd with a phantom call of the Caulfield cup. Later when the ship made landfall, the umpires were amazed to find that Pryde’s phantom call had been prophetic. He’d picked the winner. Little did they know that Bill had them fooled. He’d coaxed the captain into radioing Australia to find out the winner. Bill, who has a love of horse racing and a keen punter, in 1975 purchased his own horse, a two-year-old filly named Oyster. Unfortunately, the horse couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night.

            Once over his broken leg, Bill re-joined the group in 1973 and began his field umpiring career all over again. It was in 1974 that the Umpire’s Association held a night at the dog park and as luck would have it one of the umpires, Denis Harrington, brought along a friend by the name of Lynne, who just happened to hit it off with Bill. By the end of the night they had exchanged numbers and the romance was in full swing. Lynne and Bill married two years later and moved together to Mulgrave. Recently the couple celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary. They have two children with several grandchildren.          

In 1975 Bill nominated for the Social Committee and was elected, serving for the next two years. Many VCFL games Bill was hoping to be scouted and maybe receive a VFL 2nds appointment. But this was not the case. At the end of 1976 season Bill decided that field umpiring was not for him. He officiated 103 VCFL games with finals in Coreen & Dist. Tungamah(2), Tallangatta & Dist., Omeo & Dist, Ballarat, Ovens & King (2), Southern Mallee, Benalla and Ovens & Murray 2nds.         

            In 1977 Bill decided to take on goal umpiring, applied for the reserve grade and quickly advanced through the ranks. In his first year as goal umpire Bill wasn’t happy walking into a game with the goal umpire flag protruding from his Gladstone bag so he asked Jack Miller to make him a set that he could pull apart. The same flags are still used in today’s games.

In 1979 Bill was appointed to the VFL Under 19 Grand Final where Carlton 9.18 d. Fitzroy 8.9. In 1980 Bill was once again appointed to the VFL Under 19’s where Richmond 15.13 d. Fitzroy 13.11. Despite his success, there were no vacancies in the senior list and Bill remained in the reserves. In 1981 Leigh Keen and Bill were appointed to the Statewide Cup Grand Final with Geelong 21.14 d. Essendon 18.6. The following year both were promoted to the senior VFL list. Bill was awarded Heritage No. 176 and his first game on the senior list was at St.Kilda where South Melb. 20.22 d. St.Kilda 17.14. His goal umpiring partner that day was Greg McDonald.

1984 saw Bill umpire his only Grand Final on the senior list both as a field and goal umpire. It was in the Alberton F.L. where Foster 15.8 d. Meeniyan 9.11 Bill’s partner that day was senior goal umpire Brian Pratt. Later that year Bill was appointed emergency goal umpire to the VFL Grand Final and in 1985 received the same appointment. Bill was then appointed to the exhibition game in Japan to goal umpire with David Mitchell.

In 1986 Bill was awarded Life Membership of the AFLUA and at the start of season 1987 Bill ‘Sprinter’ Pryde turned on a special effort in pre-season at the dog track, only to find that speed can sometimes be your downfall. Bill stuffed his thigh and spent a few weeks on the sideline.

            Back in the days of the Victorian Football League, goal umpires would rotate between VFL games, VFL Reserve grade and Victorian State Under 18’s. From 1982 until 1987, Bill umpired in 5 finals, 1 elimination, 2 second semi’s and 2 preliminary finals in the V.F.L. Seniors.

            Bill had a good start to 1988 when in May he was appointed to the National Panasonic Cup Grand Final. Hawthorn 10.10 defeated Geelong 9.13 in front of an attendance of 35,803 at VFL Park.  His partner that day was Phil Watson. Come finals in the VFL 1988 Bill missed the bus and his only final that year was in the Vic. State U.18’s a 1st semi. Disappointed at the outcome Bill dropped his bundle and his umpiring suffered.

            1989 Bill was appointed to only 5 Senior games, so at the end of the season called stumps on his umpiring career. As a goal umpire on the senior list, Bill officiated in 111 VFL games, including 5 finals, 21 Victorian State and 11 Vic. State U.18’s. 1990 saw Bill appointed to the position of Goal Umpires Coach in the VFL, but in 1992 when the AFL was formed Bill lost his position.

            Having worked for Loch M. Fraser for 30 years Bill in 1996 decided a change was due and applied for a position with Toll Logistic. He was successful and worked for Toll for 14 years before deciding to retire at 65.

            Bill spends his days following a newly purchased racehorse Tranto to the tracks. He has had some success with Tranto winning two races at Sandown but he recently hit his head on the starting stalls fracturing his eye socket which put Tranto into the paddock for a few months. Not having much luck with racehorses Bill.

            Let’s hope you have better luck in the future, catch you at the Caulfield lunch. Regards Wizzer.

 

                                                                                    Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows

Related Posts