This one’s a classic! Every year we see Malcom Blight kick for goal after the siren in 1976 against Carlton to win the game. The kick travelled at least 70 meters but almost 5 decades on, as legend grows and the kick gets longer and longer. Blight kicked the ball so far that it travelled over the Heatley Stand and into a tram. The ball was finally retrieved in Flinders Street Melbourne covered in mayonnaise. LOL. Now, the umpire controlling the mark is none other than my next ‘Where are they Now’ in Michael ‘Dinky’ Dye. Michael had the easy job as his partner David Levens had the dubious task of giving the all clear to Goal umpire Ted Johnson, with hundreds of fans on the ground.
Now as most of us who were on the Olympic Park Training track know, it took ‘courage’ for Dinky to get to training, dogging the Coaches and linking up with the infamous ‘F’ Troup. The clicking in his ankles heeded a warning to other members of O.P. that Dinky was around.
‘Dinky’ was born in East Melbourne on the 15th of September 1947 to Bob & Rita Dye, who lived in Clifton Hill. Soon after Michael’s birth the family moved to West Footscray where in 1952 Michael attended St Johns Primary School for 6 years, finishing off his primary education at Saint Augustine’s C.B.C. Moving on to Footscray Technical School, it was during this time the family increased by two sisters. ‘Dinky’ took an interest in Plumbing and became an apprentice plumber in Yarraville with T.J.Brown. To be fully qualified Michael attended RMIT University studying plumbing, then on to Deakin Uni to complete Business Studies. He was now a fully qualified plumber and applied for a position with Wormald Fire Protection as a Testing Inspector of Fire Systems; a position he held for 32 years.
His other interests during this time were playing Football & Cricket with the West Footscray YCW and it just happened that Michael’s Dad Bob, who was the Secretary of the Footscray and District Football League, was visited by Wally Hopkins, the Umpire’s coach at Footscray. This was 1960 when Wally, a former VFLUA Umpire, asked Michael if he would be interested in taking on Umpiring. So, in 1963, at the age of 15 years, Dinky took on the challenge to umpire and joined the Footscray & District Football League. After six years at Footscray, Michael applied and was accepted on to the VFL Reserve Grade list in 1967. That lasted only 1 year, as Dinky was promoted onto the VFL Senior list with only 5 other umpires for the 1968 season training at the Yarraville. His first game on the Senior list was in the Mornington Peninsular League (Seaford 17.15 d. Chelsea 12.6). But, on his first overnighter on the Senior list Dinky was complaining that during his stay at Jack Hart’s Wycheproof Hotel, he had to cook his own meal with the Publican at 3.00 am in the morning. Not to mention that the Taxi would leave for Melbourne at 6.00am, so ‘Dinky’ failed to have any sleep.
His first Reserve Grade game in 1969 was at Arden Street where Fitzroy 20.18 defeated North Melbourne 13.9. After several Reserve Grade games and Country appointments Michael’s marble came out to do National Service in 1970. So, for the next two years his umpiring was put on hold whilst serving his country at Puckapunyal in the 21st Construction division.
Upon his return to the umpiring ranks in 1972, Michael was invited to a house warming party at former VFLUA Umpire Mike Quinlivan’s house. It was here that Dinky was introduced to Quinlivan’s cousin Adriana. 50 years on the couple are still together with 3 children: a boy Brendan, and two girls, Amanda and Melanie.
Before returning to the VFL, Michael spent 1971 umpiring in the Footscray & District League where his performances earnt him the ‘A’ Grade Grand Final (Spotswood 15.12 d. Parkside 14.15).
It did not take ‘Dinky’ long upon his return to the VFL Senior list to be appointed a Reserve Grade game at the Junction Oval; Fitzroy 20.15 defeated Nth Melbourne 13.9. With good performances in the Reserves in 1973 he was awarded his first Senior game at the Junction oval; Fitzroy 16.8 d. South Melbourne 7.15
During one of his games a Carlton player was giving Michael a verbal bashing which got the better of ‘Dinky’, and he told the player where to go. That week umpires coach Alan Nash was giving a rules explanation to that club when the player was about to give up on Dinky. However, his team mates quickly squashed the idea, telling him to sit down. Michael has a saying that you cannot get into trouble by telling the truth. How true.
At the presentation of Michael’s Life Membership by Bill Deller, 10 years’ service, Bill made it very clear that Michael had a complete lack of self-discipline and over-indulgence in the amber fluid. If he was to give up the beer, increase the volume of training, curb mid-week social activity and count the calories who knows what may be ahead in the future. Well, it paid dividends as Michael dried out for 18 months, became the Runner at his boys Under 9 games, not to mention being ordered off the ground by the umpire for abuse.
His drying out helped and with good reports during the year 1981. ‘Dinky’ was awarded the 1st semi-final (Collingwood 19.19 d. Fitzroy 19.18), and the Preliminary final (Collingwood 12.10 d, Geelong 11.9). ‘Dinky’ was on top of his game and received the appointment of the 1981 Grand Final, the Highlight of his umpiring career. Partnered with Ian Robinson, in front of a crowd of 112,964, Carlton 12.20 defeated Collingwood 10.12.
Michael had reached the pinnacle in his umpiring career and decided to call stumps. His career lasted 12 years with 131 senior VFL games, 1 VFL Grand Final 1981, 5 VFL Finals, 55 VFL Reserve games, 1 VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final (Richmond 19.18 d. Footscray 10.15), 3 VFL Reserve grand finals. He also did 47 VCFL games, 8 finals and 14 VCFL Grand Finals in leagues such as Benalla & Dist, Murray F.L x 3, Tallangatta & Dist, Waranga Nth East, Nth Central, Circular Head Tasmania, Kowree Naracoorte, Wimmera, Goulburn Valley F.L. x 3, and Ovens & Murray F.L. Michael also officiated at 8 Inter-league games. His final game on the list, partnered with Neville Nash, was the game at Kardinia Park where Essendon 17.9 d. Geelong 10.11.
His time working for Wormald also came to an end so it was time that Michael took a new direction with his employment. He decided to start his own business, Nans Nappy Laundry where his company washed 10,000 nappies a week. Crickey.
After having the 1982 year away from Umpiring Michael was asked if he would be interested in observing senior VFL games. This last only three years, 1983-85, as he needed to spend more time with his business. Michael then took up Lawn Bowls and would finish up as assistant Green Keeper at Moonee Ponds.
I asked Michael what he thought of today’s game and his statement was the same as many. The man with the ball is crucified, much different to when he umpired.
Umpiring is still in the family, as Michael’s son Brendan officiated at the VFL level but missed out on the AFL list. Brendon has been umpiring for 35 years and today is President of the Essendon & District F.L. ‘Dinky’s grandson Liam also umpired at Essendon, and today is on the VFL list hoping to emulate his grandfather and umpire at the top level.
The family have travelled to America, visited Disneyland, Hollywood and many other interesting places in the ’States. In 2018 ‘Dinky’ sold up and purchased a property in a Lifestyle Community in Ocean Grove, but until the property was built they rented for 8 months in Jan Juc. Today after his Sauna and Swim which he has done for 27 years, Michael heads for the internet and reads the daily news.
He tells me there is something different about a Friday beer. They taste better, Smell Better, make you sing better – Cheers Michael, good health.
Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows