‘Where Are They Now’ ventures back to the early days of umpiring, where it was more common than it is today for a field umpire, once he finished his career, changed over to become a goal umpire where they would start on the Reserve Grade list in order to demonstrate their ability to be promoted to the Senior list.
One such country Field Umpire is Richard Auhl who did just that after finishing his career as a field umpire due to injury took up goal umpiring before being promoted to the Goal Umpires’ Senior list in 1983. Unfortunately, injury played a part in Richard’s career, as a field and goal umpire, as you will read later in the story.
Born in Richmond on 8th May 1940, at the Bethesda Hospital to Thomas and Daisy Auhl, Richard Thomas Auhl had a sister Janice and lived in Northcote. Richard attended Helen Street State School from 1946 until 1951 before moving on to Northcote High School from 1952 to 1956.
In 1957, Richard successfully applied for a position with the E.S and A Bank and began playing football with the bank in the Victorian Amateurs’ Football Association. A handy player, he was invited by the Fitzroy Football Club to try out with them in 1959 and 1960. After a couple of games in Fitzroy’s Reserves team, he returned to the bank side and completed 150 games, captaining the side for the last two years. During the summer, Richard played tennis and was successful in a winning premiership side. Unfortunately, a severe back injury finished his football playing days.
Invited to a Netball Presentation Night in 1959 at Reservoir, Richard met Eleanor and they started dating. After four years, they married at the Northcote Baptist Church in 1964. Today, they have two girls Joanna and Andrea and four grandchildren.
Due to his injuries on the football field, VFL umpire Ron Brophy suggested he take up umpiring. Richard applied to the Reserve Grade in 1967 and was accepted as a field umpire. After three years on the Reserve Grade list, Richard was promoted to the Senior list in 1971. He completed 29 VCFL games include a final at the Benalla and Tungamah League. With his job now requiring frequent interstate travel, Richard was forced to retire from umpiring at the end of the 1972 season.
In 1978 Richard was promoted with the Esanda Finance Company to Wangaratta for a three-year period. On his arrival, he was approached and appointed as Umpires’ Adviser with the Wangaratta and Associate Leagues. Richard held the role for three years and admired the dedication of the umpires who would travel many kilometres to their games with a full car load of umpires to officiate at three matches at the appointed venue.
On his return to Melbourne, Richard was approached prior to the 1982 season by Norm Smith and Frank Leverett to take up goal umpiring. He was appointed to the Development Squad which only lasted one year as the AFL decided to combine all umpiring under the one banner and Richard was promoted to the Senior list.
Richard was appointed to his first AFL game in round 8 when he partnered with Ted Johnson in the St Kilda v Carlton game at Moorabbin. Back in 1983, the umpires’ appointments were published in the newspaper each Thursday morning. With Richard in Queensland on work commitments, it was his wife Eleanor who read his appointment and rang him so that he could organise a quick flight home to do his first AFL game.
In 1984, Richard was appointed to the Anzac Day match at the MCG between Collingwood and Essendon. The day was extra special for Richard as his dad had been an original Anzac at Gallipoli. In 1985, Richard umpired the Qualifying Final between Footscray and Hawthorn with his goal umpire partner Barry Farrow.
A combination of employment and travel led to Richard missing many appointments so consequently he was in and out of the seniors over the next few years. Towards the end of the 1987 Richard sustained an ACL knee injury at VFL Park which meant he was unable to start the 1988 season until round 8. Unfortunately, a car accident towards the end of that season caused further injury to his ACL and snapped his PCL which meant the end to his umpiring career. Richard retired as a Senior goal umpire with 48 AFL games over six years.
When asked about his most embarrassing moment as a Goal Umpire, Richard stated at one game Richmond’s Brian Taylor and St. Kilda’s Danny Frawley were shaping each other up when Richard got in between the pair to quell the situation. Unfortunately for him, Taylor picked him up and used him as a shield to ward off Frawley. Richard stated he felt like a rag doll being pushed from pillar to post.
Following his retirement, AFL Umpires’ Director Bill Deller OAM approached Richard to take on the role of Observer for the Field Umpires’ Development Squad, a position he held for 3 years from 1989 to 1991. In 1990 Richard was awarded Life Membership of the AFLUA.
In 1992, Richard was appointed Goal Umpires’ Coach, his role expanding to become the National Coach and Technical Consultant of Goal Umpiring across Australia in the newly formed Australian Football League. He continued in this position for 12 years before deciding to retire.
Richard retired from his employment with Esanda Finance in 1997, after completing 40 years with the same company.
Following his retirement from the AFL, Richard and his wife travelled to Switzerland, France, England, Denmark, Italy and Turkey. He spends his spare time fishing in Victoria and up the east coast to Queensland.
Richard and his wife live at Mount Martha and Richard enjoys his local walks and devoting time to the Probus Club and doing charity work in the Mornington and Mount Martha area. Richard also enjoys catching up with his umpiring colleagues at the X-Umpires’ functions at Mornington Race Course.
Richard is thankful to Ron Brophy for suggesting he take on umpiring so many years ago. Well done to Richard on a fantastic umpiring journey.
VFL Goal Umpiring games 48
VFL Qualifying Final 1
Footscray 8.14 lost to Hawthorn 22.23
Field R.Sawers and D.Howlett
Boundary P.Nicholls and A.Kovess
Goal D.Auhl and B.Farrow
VCFL games 29
VCFL Final – 1stSemi Final 1
Benella and Tungamah League
Congupna Road v Tungamah at Katamatite
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows