When you reach retirement age, you may think that you would put your feet up and relax, but this was not the case for our next “Where are they now?” Umpire.
Michael Francis Xavier Henry known as Mike, is busier than ever and devotes a lot of his time as a volunteer as a medical transport driver taking elderly citizens to medical appointments on the Mornington Peninsula, something he has done for 12 years. Mike also assists with transporting umpires to the X-umpires’ function. More on that later.
Born on the 19thOctober 1946 to Walter (who lived to 96) & Kathleen (68), Mike is one of three children with an elder brother John and a younger sister Teresa. The family spend their early years in the Oakleigh area where Mike attended St Anthony’s Parish School from 1952-1957 at a site which is now the Chadstone Shopping Centre. In 1958 he attended Salesian College in Chadstone until 1962 during which time he attained his Leaving Certificate. During his time at Salesian, Mike represented the school in football, athletics, tennis, table tennis and cricket. In addition to this, he took up boundary umpiring after finding his father’s ‘Old Acme Thunderer’ in a box. Mike’s father umpired the 1935 Caulfield Oakleigh and Districts Football League Grand Final, the year after he retired as the Best and Fairest Player in the same competition. During this time Mike played football for Clayton YCW Under 17’s where they won the Premiership.
In 1962, Mike join the South East Suburban Football League as a field umpire and this is where the umpiring bug caught on, when after his first year as a field umpire, he applied and was accepted to the VFL Reserve Grade list in 1963.
In 1963, Mike also commenced employment as a Junior Clerk with the Australian Catholic Assurance Company for 6 months. In late June, he joined the ANZ Bank, formerly known as the E S & A Bank at the South Oakleigh branch. After a short time, Mike was transferred to the 90 Bourke Street, Melbourne branch, then onto 293 Collins Street, Melbourne. His various banking duties consisted of Ledger/Teller/ Securities clerk, where he also operated 3 ship board bank agencies (Freemantle to Sydney, and 3 South Pacific cruises).
Mike felt he needed to become much fitter for the task of umpiring football and took on the challenge of professional foot-running whilst at the same time he co-founded and captained the Salesian Old Boys cricket team to their inaugural premiership in 1968.
The Bill Lawry quote “It’s all happening” was about to take place. In 1968 Mike was promoted onto the VFL Senior List of Umpires where his first game was in the Polworth League between Queenscliff and Leopold on the 25thApril. As a first year umpire the system works, last on first off, and on 25thAugust Mike was appointed to a Mid-Gippsland game, Boolara versus Thorpdale which was his last appointment for the year. However, as it turned out, this gave Mike the opportunity to attend the E S and A Bank Ball where he met his future wife Pauline.
Season 1969 saw Mike appointed to his first VFL 2nds match between Essendon and Footscray at Windy Hill on the 24thMay. He continued in the seconds for the remainder of the season. Post season Mike and Pauline got married in November in Springvale and they then moved into their own house in Noble Park.
In 1970, they welcomed their first child, a girl named Karen. During the season, Mike continued to umpire well in the seconds. In 1971, Mike started off in the country for six weeks before being appointed to the VFL 2nds again. On the 14thAugust, Mike was appointed to his first VFL senior game between Footscray and Fitzroy at the Western Oval. Even though Mike did a fairly good job for his first game, he was inducted into VFL football with supporters spitting towards the umpires’ race after Footscray’s loss. One Fitzroy player gave him a helping hand during the game when Mike cramped telling him to stamp his feet to relieve the pain. “Come on ump, you can do it there is not long to go.” player Robertson said.
In 1973, Mike was promoted to Accountant at the Toorak Branch and welcomed his second child, a boy named Christopher. He umpired most of the season in the VFL 2nds, before being promoted to the Seniors where he umpired two games before being rotated around the bush until the end of the season. During the season, Mike was appointed to an exhibition game at Manuka Oval in Canberra. In extremely cold conditions, Footscray defeated Hawthorn by one point in front of 8,000 frozen spectators. Lucky it wasn’t the same weather when Mike rocked up to training one night and found his wife had not packed his shorts. Mike unperturbed, trained in his jocks.
In 1974, Mike started in the VFL Seniors and performed well umpiring 20 VFL games. He continued to perform well in 1975. One of his games, which can be seen on You Tube, was at Princes Park between Carlton v Collingwood. Fights broke out all over the ground and being a one-umpire match, Mike didn’t know which way to turn. He was rewarded at the end of the season with the Qualifying Final with North Melbourne 14.10 defeating Carlton 12.4. He finished the year with the VFL 2nds Grand Final, the last with one umpire, which saw Geelong 16.18 defeat Richmond 11.17.
Mike was promoted again in 1976 to Area Operations Officer at the South Yarra branch. Two umpires were introduced as well and Mike umpired 23 matches during the season finishing with the Second Semi-Final with Mike Dye which saw Hawthorn defeat Carlton at VFL Park. In 1977, Mike and Pauline welcomed their third child and second daughter Danielle. Mike umpired 17 games due to his demanding work commitments and finished with umpiring the Qualifying Reserves Final at the MCG with David Levens. He finished the season with the First Semi-Final Reserve Grand umpiring alongside Ken Quinn with Footscray 19.19 defeating Collingwood 18.13 at VFL Park.
Due to his heavy work commitments, Mike decided to retire at the end of 1977. During his 10 years on the list, Mike umpired grand finals in the following leagues: Omeo and Districts, Ovens and Murray x 2, North Central x 2, Mid-Murray, Circular Head Tasmania, South West, Murray, Tallangatta and District, Mornington, Ballarat x 2 with 17 other finals. He featured in four inter-league games – Murray v Northern District, Waranga North East v LaTrobe, North Central v Mid Murray and South West District v Farrer.
Mike was awarded life membership of the VFLUA in 1978. He was also promoted to Public Relations Officer for Victoria.
Mike continued some connection with umpiring when he took an observing role with the Dandenong and District Junior Football League from 1978 to 1980. During this time, in 1979, their fourth child, a girl named Sheree was born. He was promoted again to the role of Branch Manager at the Berwick branch. After five years in his new role, Mike was rotated to Hastings from 1986 to 1991 and then Mornington 1991 to 1997, before he retired after 35 years in the banking industry.
In addition to working and umpiring, Mike has, for a period of over 25 years, undertaken the role of Trivia Quizmaster, arranging and compering Trivia nights with over $122,000 raised for charitable organisations. He has also, as mentioned earlier, been a medical transport driver taking elderly citizens to medical appointments and assist the St Vincent de Paul Society should the need arise. He volunteers at major golfing events in Melbourne acting as a walking scorer at such events as the Masters, President’s Cup, World Cup and Victorian Open. He also volunteers as a courtesy car driver at the Kooyong Tennis Classic.
Mike and Pauline now spend time with their 4 children and 8 grandchildren- Chelsea and Mitchell to Karen; Georgie and Halle to Chris; Lachlan and Nathan to Dani; and Rory and Jensen to Sheree.
Since his retirement Mike and Pauline have found the time to travel extensively to 5 continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America – highlights including an African wildlife safari, Machu Picchu, Scandinavia and attending the US Masters at Augusta in 2013.
His personal achievements are life memberships of the VFLUA, the Springvale South Tennis Club and the Salesian Old Boys Cricket Club. He was recently inducted into Salesian College Chadstone Student Hall of Fame.
Mike’s record includes 342 games made up of 89 VFL Senior matches with two finals, 41 VFL 2nds with three Reserve Grade grand finals, 67 VCFL matches, 13 VCFL grand finals and 17 VCFL finals and four inter-league matches. Having kept a record of travel, Mike travelled 51,541 miles during his career and earned just over $11,000 for his effort.
In retirement, looking back, Mike cherishes the many lifelong friends he has made in the umpiring fraternity along the way. Well done Mike on a fantastic career!
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme “Whizzer” Fellows