Our next ‘Where are they Now?’ is a Goal Umpire who needs no introduction to all AFLUA members. Leigh Du-Val Keen is what our Association strives for, so much so that an award named the Leigh Keen Shield was introduced in 2000 in recognition of Leigh’s outstanding career and service to the AFLUA. It is the AFLUA’s most prestigious award for goal umpires and takes into account both on-field performance and off-field commitment to the AFLUA. The specific criteria for the award are: achieving on field success; actively contributing to and supporting the AFLUA; role modelling the attributes of commitment, loyalty and dedication.
It should be noted at this point, the question of ‘Where are they now?’ is a good one when it comes to Leigh Keen. Currently enjoying high tea on the Queen Elizabeth? Champagne and cocktails on the Queen Mary? All l can tell you is he is somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere with a 40-day cruise from the UK to Australia via Africa which gets him back to Melbourne just before Christmas.
Now you may be asking where the name Du-Val comes from. Leigh stated that it was his paternal grandmother’s maiden name and every member of the Keen family has it as their second name.
Born on the 17thMay 1949 to Allen & Irene Keen at the Hopetoun Hospital Elsternwick, Leigh spent his early years in Murrumbeena and is the eldest of three children. His other two siblings are a sister Robyn and a brother Peter. His first school was Murrumbeena State School which he attended from 1955 until 1960. In 1961, Leigh commenced his secondary education at Lloyd Street Central School in East Malvern and, in 1963, when the family moved to Oakleigh, he transferred to the newly opened Chadstone High School where he attended until the end of 1967.
1963 was the year that Leigh’s umpiring career started when he field umpired the house matches at Chadstone High School and then would goal umpire the inter-school matches. Leigh claims he was a poor footballer so this was his way of being involved in a sport that he loved. At school, Leigh was invited to attend a VFL Field Umpires Course run by Jack Irving for young and aspiring field umpires. He was also an excellent cross country runner, something he carried through to his umpiring.
After graduating from Chadstone High, Leigh commenced his working life in 1968 as an administrator with the Education Department where he held a variety of staffing and personnel roles over the next 20 years. Working with the Education Department also provided another avenue for Leigh’s goal umpiring to continue with the Victorian Public Service Football Association, a competition run by Peter Matheson. It was with Matho’s encouragement that Leigh considered taking his umpiring career further and, in 1974, he joined the VFL Reserve Grade as a goal umpire.
Leigh progressed through the system at a fairly rapid rate with many finals. In 1979, he was appointed to the VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final between Collingwood and Nth Melbourne where his partner in the goals was Stan Capp. 1980 saw Leigh appointed to the Under 19s Grand Final partnered by Bill Pryde where Richmond 15.13 d. Fitzroy 13.11. Then, in 1981, he was appointed to his second VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final, again partnered by Bill Pryde. Geelong 21.14 d. Essendon 18.6 and, with this appointment, Leigh was promoted onto the Senior List for season 1982.
His first game on the Senior List was at Princes Park on the 3rdApril, partnered by Kevin Andrews, where Hawthorn 13.19 defeated Geelong 11.12. Early in the game and with his first goal decision, Kelvin Moore of Hawthorn collided heavily with Leigh and bowled him over, resulting in a very sore arm. Leigh continued on but, at half-time, the pain was so severe that he had to seek treatment from St John’s Ambulance. They just applied some magic spray which enabled him to see out the game, albeit in great discomfort. It turned out that he had broken his arm and missed the next eight weeks with the injury.
In 1983, Leigh nominated and won the ballot to carry out the duties as the VFLUA Treasurer. Working hard at his craft in the goals, Leigh, who had never had a nickname, won the title of ‘Lethal’ after Leigh Matthews of Hawthorn. It wasn’t until season 1984 that his performances earned him a Qualifying Final followed, in 1985, by a 2ndSemi. 1986 was an interesting year as Leigh had a phobia of flying and many appointments were at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where umpires were flown to the ground. Goal Umpires’ Coach at the time, Jim Mahoney, with the approval of Umpires’ Director Bill Deller OAM, allowed Leigh to travel by train to Sydney for his appointment. His year finished with the Preliminary Final. Another final followed in 1987 — the 1stSemi — and 1988, saw Leigh appointed to the 1stSemi where his performance warranted him receiving the Grand Final — Hawthorn 22.20 defeated Melbourne 6.20 — partnered with David Mitchell. Now this would have been a bitter pill for Leigh to swallow being a staunch Melbourne supporter where, for 11 years from 1963 to 1973, Leigh officiated in the goals at all Melbourne practice matches and was Melbourne’s statistician from 1969 to 1973.
In 1987, Leigh took on the role of VFLUA Statistician. At that time, umpires’ and Association records were at best sketchy. So, with the support and encouragement of Bill Deller OAM, Leigh spent a great deal of time at VFL House trawling through their records, minute books, old Football Records, etc. His research work was recorded in the Association’s Annual Reports, which saw these publications transformed into historical and statistical almanacs. When Leigh retired at the end of the 1993 season, he handed the reins over to David Flegg AM who took the recording of umpires’ history to another level.
In 1988, Leigh decided to move in his employment and transferred to the State Revenue Office as the Human Resources Manager. Wanting to give back to the sport that he loves, he joined the Footscray & District Football League as their Goal Umpiring Coach for two years, at the same officiating at the VFL Senior level.
Season 1989, round two, saw Leigh umpire his 100thVFL senior game partnered by Greg Macdonald. And you guessed it, Richmond played Melbourne at the MCG, the result a massive win to the Dees making a great day for Leigh’s 100thmatch. At the end of a very busy season where Leigh performed the duty of AFLUA Secretary, the VFL decided on promotional games in Toronto and London where Leigh was appointed to officiate in the goals. This was so special because it was Leigh’s first trip overseas and he had to overcome a severe height phobia and fear of flying.
Leigh received his Life membership of the AFLUA in 1991 and a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Leigh in 1993.
His second Grand Final, in 1991, was a feather in his cap as it was the first and only grand final to be played at VFL Park Waverley. His partner that day was David Flegg AM and saw Hawthorn 20.19 defeat the West Coast Eagles 13.8. This was to be Leigh’s last Grand Final for, at the end of season 1993, due to the AFL’s youth policy at that time, Leigh was ‘retired’. His umpiring record stood at 184 VFL/AFL games with 2 Grand Finals and 10 Finals. His last game just happened to be at the MCG where Melbourne 11.9 this time lost to Fitzroy 14.14. He considers both Grand Finals and umpiring in Toronto and London as the highlights of his career.
Asked what he thought of football today Leigh stated that it’s ok – more stop-start than it used to be — but things do change.
In the meantime, Leigh was employed with the Parliament of Victoria from 1994 as the Human Resources Manager, a position he held until 2004. After 36 years’ employment in the public sector, 25 years of which were in managerial roles, Leigh decided to take a step back and took up a role in 2005 with Myer Chadstone where he served the public for 6 years in the Menswear Department. 2011 Leigh decided to retire from the workforce.
In 1994 the Southern Football League was on the lookout for a Goal Umpiring Coach for the upcoming season. SFL Umpires’ Coach, Ian Bennett, approached Leigh to take on the role. He accepted and spent 7 very happy and rewarding seasons there, retiring at the end of the 2000 season. This also was a memorable year for Leigh as he was the recipient of the Australian Sports Medal for year 2000.
After his stint with Southern, Leigh was appointed by the VFL in 2001 to observe goal umpiring performances in the state-based competitions, a position he held for six years before taking over as the VFL Assistant Goal Umpires’ Coach in 2007. The following year, Kevin Mitchell asked Leigh to be the inaugural Goal Umpires’ Coach of the VFL Development Squad. Leigh decided that his knowledge and experience would be advantageous to the younger goal umpires so he jumped at the role. He stayed in this position until the end of 2016 and set many umpires on the right path to umpire AFL Football.
These days Leigh serves the AFLUA as part of the Heritage and Traditions Project team and, in his spare time, is the Development Coach for Goal Umpires with the Essendon District Football League, under the watchful eye of Director Rowan Sawers.
Leigh loves catching up with friends for lunch or going to the movies, and walks for fitness with a mate most days, but most of his time is taken up with Ancestry or Genealogy tracing the family tree. Since 1989 Leigh travels overseas on a regular basis having been to London 15 times and after this football season is about to take a 10-week holiday to Munich up the west coast of Norway to see the Northern Lights. He plans to visit Jersey in search of his family history and then off to England once again. Leaving England he will sail home on the Queen Elizabeth via Africa. So much for his fear of flying.
Leigh is a football fanatic who is a regular at many of the AFLUA functions. Seated on level 2 in the Melbourne members, Leigh is passionate about his footy. He does take some pride that in the 20 odd years he and his friend Gary have sat in those seats, no-one has renewed their seats directly in front of him.
Great work Leigh; see you at the next Caulfield function, of course, once you get back from your overseas travel.
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Whizzer’ Fellows