Fifty years in umpiring and guess what, Denis Edmund Gollop at the ripe old age of 70 years, is still umpiring in the Queensland Football League. Crickey makes one feel tired just writing about it.  Not only does Denis complete his duties as a field umpire, he butters up and takes his turn in the goals, when required.  Denis who now is the Field Umpire Coach for AFL Queensland Juniors on the Sunshine Coast, claims it’s never too late to get started as long as you love the game, and to cap it off you have the best seat at the ground. Denis thoroughly enjoys the role as a coach of junior umpires on the Sunshine Coast.

Born to Edmund Henry and Esther Kathleen Gollop on 8thOctober 1948 at the Moreland Hospital Melbourne, Denis has one sibling, a sister Jennifer.  The family lived in Ivanhoe and Watsonia where Denis in 1953 was enrolled at St Bernadette’s Primary School, Ivanhoe and after graduating attended Heidelberg High School in 1959 for 1 year.

His parents transferred Denis to Parade College in Bundoora in 1960, thinking the school would give him a better education.  He participated in the school’s junior football team where he dominated representing the school on many occasions, the highlight being the opportunity to represent the school in a game in Tasmania.

At the age of 15, Denis decided to leave school and applied for a job as an Apprentice Butcher. Completing his apprenticeship, he continued to work as a butcher for another 5 years, but in 1971 considered greener pastures and took on a franchise with KwikasAir Transport.

After playing football with Parade College in 1963, Parkdale Amateurs in 1965, and Ivanhoe YCW in 1967, Denis decided that after too many injuries and having some teeth knocked out in one game, to try his hand at umpiring.  He joined the YCW Umpires Association in 1969 and stayed there until 1974.  Denis then joined the VFL Reserve Grade list in 1975 and umpired well enough to be appointed emergency umpire for the Under 19s First Semi-Final.

To keep himself fit in the off-season, Denis joined the Richmond Harriers and completed the Melbourne Marathon from Frankston to the city. In 1976, Denis was promoted onto the Senior List where his first game was between Coleraine and North Gambier in the very strong Western Border League.

His second game brought Denis back to earth at a game in Rochester in northern Victoria in the Goulburn Valley League. An angry mob had gathered with the intensions of attacking the umpire after the game. Lucky for Denis the police got wind of the situation and escorted Denis out of town.  Denis went on to umpire three years in the bush before he was elevated to his first VFL Reserve Grade game in 1980 between Hawthorn and Geelong at VFL Park.  His partner that day was Shane Carbines.

Denis claims the highlight of his 19 VFL Reserve Grade games was walking out at half-time in the Melbourne v Essendon reserves game at the MCG with partner John Sutcliffe where approximately 60,000 people were already in attendance. He claims the buzz was something he would never forget.  Recently, Denis was presented with an award for his 50 year’s service to umpiring before the first bounce at a Brisbane Lions game at the Gabba, one of his career highlights.

It wasn’t long before Denis was promoted onto the Premier Training Track at Olympic Park. Whilst training at Olympic Park, Denis represented the City Crew Boys twice in the infamous Underpants Derby at the North Melbourne reunion.

Whilst on the VFL Senior list Denis was awarded the VFUA Courage Award 1980, an Award presented to a personality who had overcome great personal adversity in the past demonstrating a commitment to umpiring despite challenges that they have faced. He also served on the VFLUA Social Committee from 1978 until 1980.

In 1981, Denis was a regular in the 2nds but failed to be promoted to the seniors. Disappointed at missing out Denis was called into a meeting and at the age of 32 was asked to move on as the VFL were going down a program of youth.  His last game on the list was in 1981 in the Bellarine Football League Grand Final where Newcombe 17.10 d. Torquay 12.9, with his partner on the day, Peter Howe. His tally of games with the VFL were as follows: 19 VFL Reserve Grade games; 97 VCFL country appointments; 2 VCFL Grand Finals and 10 VCFL Finals, over 7 years.

In 1982, Denis tried out with the Victorian Football Association where in his first year he umpired in Division two.

In 1983, Denis officiate in Division One and continued this trend through the 1984 season. At the end of the season, Denis and wife Lorraine, who he had met on a blind date in Noble Park, decided that they had enough of the Melbourne weather and a move to Sunny Queensland was on the cards.

No sooner had the footy season ended, the Gollops packed up and moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland where Denis immediately joined the Queensland Australian Football League Umpires. Denis resigned from his position with Veith Transport in Melbourne, a position he had held for two years, and started working with McPhee Transport in Queensland.

To get fit for the upcoming football season Denis once again started marathon running where he completed the Brisbane to Redcliff marathon for two years running.  His two years as a field umpire with the QAFL was most enjoyable but soon the family was on the move again deciding to move to another house on the Gold Coast. Denis investigated the prospect of umpiring with AFL Gold Coast so in 1987 joined the AFLUA Gold Coast.  Eight years on this list and Denis was appointed as Umpires’ Advisor where he continued to umpire as field umpire as well as carrying out his coaching role.  He held the position for two years before moving onto the AFL Queensland where he umpired and carried out observing duties until 2005.

During the 2005 season Denis was award the AFL Queensland Umpire of the Year Award as well as receiving the Queensland Umpires’ Umpire Award. The following year in 2006 he became President of the Umpires’ Association and was awarded Life Membership of the Gold Coast AFLUA.

After 20 years with McPhee Transport, Denis decided it was time to move on and the family moved to Bundaberg in 2006, where he took on a role with Fastaway Couriers, a position he held for four years.

In 2007, Denis undertook a bold venture when he formed two transport companies – Gollop Logistics and Lorden Transport.  This continued for four years when a franchise with Couriers Please on the Sunshine Coast became available, so Denis closed the companies and pursued the new franchise.  This meant another move for the family to the Sunshine Coast in 2011, where they remain today.  At the end of 2017, Denis decided it was time to retire and he closed the company. Whilst this was happening with his employment, Denis continued umpiring with the Sunshine Coast in several roles – field umpire, goal umpire when required and field umpire coach to the AFL Queensland Juniors on the Sunshine Coast.

Today Denis devotes most of his time to his family, wife Lorraine, his four children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

In his spare time Denis squeezes in a game of golf and was a participating member of the over 50’s Walking Soccer team. Must have been played at a blistering pace. He has also found time to holiday in the USA, London and Bali over the years and in October this year will spend a few weeks in the United Kingdom.  Denis loves watching spy movies especially James Bond and his latest hobby is wine making where I caught Denis crushing the grapes with his own still.  He once played the Banjo but he tells me he would have trouble strumming a tune today.

I asked him what he thinks of football these days. He stated that it’s evolving very quickly especially in his state of Queensland.  He loves his umpiring and to get ready for a game he does yoga.  His biggest thrill is the comradery amongst the umpires and the involvement walking out as a group on match day.  His biggest worry on match day is arriving late for a game as the traffic in Queensland is almost as bad as Victoria, as in his position he has to set the example.

Denis with his 50 years of umpiring must be very close to 1000 games officiating as a field umpire not to mention the odd one or two games in the goals.

The special award presented to Denis at the Gabba in late July saw his photo in umpiring gear and a close up with the words on the main scoreboard CONGRATULATIONS Denis Gollop for 50 years of umpiring. A great momento for a fantastic career.

Denis is working towards seeing one of his pupils or fellow umpires officiate at the AFL one day. It was great catching up with Denis and may he continue to officiate as long as he wishes.

 Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Whizzer’ Fellows     

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