It is with great pleasure that l introduce our next ‘Where are they now?’ member. Our oldest AFLUA member is Roland Glanville ‘Roly’ Caird, affectionately known as Roly is currently 99 years of age and will turn 100 on the 23rdof June 2020. 

Roly was born to William and Ivy Caird on the 23rdof June 1920 at the Albert Park Private Hospital. With the birth of Roly, the family moved into a Return Serviceman’s house in Preston.  Roly, the eldest member of the Caird Family has two sisters and a brother.

In 1926, Roly was enrolled at West Preston State School where he represented the school in both football and cricket and as a sprinter in school sports. He also tried his hand at tennis, but football was his main priority in sport.

After graduating at Collingwood Technical School in 1932, Roly obtained his Junior Technical Certificate in 1933 and once again he was a regular member of the school’s football team. As well as playing at school, Roly also played with VFA team Northcote 2nds from 1939 until he joined the Fitzroy 2nds in the VFL in 1944. During his first game, a St Kilda player whilst going for a mark, jumped into Roly causing his to crash to the ground and dislocate his shoulder.  That was the end of his football career.  After his injury Roly retired from football and pursued tennis for a couple of years.

With most of the Northern Suburbs teenagers attending the Preston Town Hall Dance, which was a popular night spot in those days, Roly met a lovely lady in Alma and after a few years the couple tied the knot marrying in 1945 at the Methodist Church in High Street Northcote.

After years of study, Roly qualified as a Fitter & Turner/Engineer and applied for a position with Telford Smith P/L in Johnson Street Collingwood. He held this position for 22 years before transferring to Century Batteries in Dorcas St South Melbourne. A promotion and Roly became the Depot Manager for Victoria and Tasmania with Century Batteries this time in Macaulay Road North Melbourne. During his time as Depot Manager, he was responsible for opening 11 depots in Victoria and two in Tasmania. He held this position until his retirement in 1995.

1948 and one of Roly’s mates in Tom Jones, no not the famous singer, who had been umpiring on the VFL Reserve Grade, told Roly about an advertisement in The Age Newspaper for umpires, he applied and was accepted on the list as a Goal Umpire in 1949.  Over the next few years and a few minor finals, in 1954 Roly was appointed to the VFL 2nds, Second Semi final with Field Umpire Harry Beitzel and his partner in the goals was Keith Traplin, and Boundary Umpires Harrod & Higgins. Melbourne 14.17 d. Carlton  15.9 by 2 pts with Jack Mueller dominating at full forward, and the winning goal was kicked after the final siren.

An interesting sidelight in 1954 was the Thirds Grand Final where in controversial circumstances the field umpire Frank Schwab missed the boundary umpire’s decision. He went on to pay a free kick and a resulting goal put Footscray in front on the final bell. Two boundary umpires were assaulted and the field umpire threatened by a hostile crowd. A Carlton senior player who felt Carlton had been cheated jumped the fence and attacked the umpires. He was subsequently suspended by a Special Tribunal and fined for assault in a civil court.  One goal umpire used his flags to fend off the hostile crowd.  In those days Boundary Umpires did not have whistles but that soon changed in 1955 after a League directive.

Roly was appointed onto the first group of goal umpires in 1954, specifically promoted from the VFL Reserve Grade to fill vacancies on the Senior list.  Prior to 1955, it was common practice for former field and boundary umpires to transfer to the goals despite having no experience.

On the Senior list some goal umpires were not performing up to the standard required, so the League swung the axe creating 5 positions. Goal Umpires in Caird, Cree, Coe, Stanley and Thomas all received promotions along with Boundary Umpire Fitzgerald from the Reserve Grade. In those days the League supplied the flags but umpires had to supply their own coat, hat and boots.

Roly’s first game was at Princes Park where he partnered with Harry Clayton. Carlton 19.20 thrashed North Melbourne 10.5.  Roly recalls an incident where field umpire Bill Barbour paid a second grab mark on the goal line and Roly had to chase him up the ground to get an all-clear after explaining what happened. 

After the final siren in Roly’s first game in 1955, he was running back to the centre to check on the scores when he stepped into a pit used for watering the ground, fell forward injuring the knuckle on his hand. Unable to hold the flags, this cost him five weeks on the sidelines, returning for the round six clash between Carlton and Sth Melbourne. Not what you would call a great start to your career.

Over the next three years, Roly umpired a number of finals including the 1956 First Semi between Footscray and Geelong (partnered with Daryl Cranch) with the Dogs scraping home by 2 points.  At three quarter time, the scores were level and for 15 minutes neither team were able to score in the last quarter. In 1957, Cory partnered with Jack Lee for the 1957 Second Semi Final when Essendon 12.11 defeated Melbourne 8.19; the 1958 Preliminary Final (partnered with Daryl Cranch) when Collingwood 14.12 defeated North Melbourne 10.16 and the 1959 VFL Grand Final (partnered with Daryl Cranch) when Melbourne 17.13 defeated Essendon 11.12.

The field umpire for the 1959 Grand Final was Bill Barbour and only recently before Bill passed away, Roly and he caught up after 56 years at the Eildon Hotel for lunch and a convivial ale or two.  In 1960, Roly umpired the Preliminary Final between Collingwood and Fitzroy.  It rained all day and the ground was muddy and slushy.  Collingwood defeated Fitzroy by five points in a low scoring affair. Due to the weather, the crowd was only 65,301 however the VFL collected 2,000 pounds rain insurance which bought gate takings to almost a sell-out.

The following week Roly was appointed to the Wimmera League Grand Final at Dimboola where Horsham defeated Stawell 8.15 to 5.7.  During the last quarter, 30 players were involved in a brawl and it took seven policemen and the umpires five minutes to regain control.  A sensation climax to a spiteful match. 

It was not to end there as Roly’s partner that day had just bought a new Holden and wanted to run it in.  Desite Roly insiting They failed to travel as directed to the game and were called before the VFL Board where League CEO Jack Hamilton got involved.  Both umpires received a 12-month suspension, missing all of the 1961 season.  Lucky for Roly there were some retirements at the end of 1961, so he was fortunate to be accepted back onto the list for season 1962.

This was to be Roly’s last final for 10 years, despite him regularly featuring in home and away games. His final match for the VFL, after 231 VFL games, was the First Semi-Final in 1970 between St Kilda 22.11 defeated South Melbourne 13.12, notable for the fact it was Bobby Skilton’s only final.  Roly’s tally of finals over 16 years included: VFL Grand Final 1, VFL finals 5, the Wimmera and Bendigo Leagues Grand Final; VFL Night Grand Finals 2, VFL Night Semi Finals 2; VFL Night Games 9; VFL Emerg. G/Ump. 1; Interstate Matches 3; Anzac Day matches 2; VCFL Grand Finals G/U. 3; VCFL Prel. Finals G/U 8; VCFL Finals G/U. 16. His final game on the VFL List was the Murray League Grand Final at Tocumwal where Numurkah 12.24 d. Berrigan 8.11.  Roly’s partner that day was Dick Sankey.

Over his career, Roly when not umpiring in the VFL was appointed to grand finals in the Northern District and Murray League and Wimmera and finals in the following: – La Trobe Valley x 6; Murray x 4; Goulburn Valley x 5; Ovens & Murray x 4; Northern Dist. x 4 and Waranga North East.

In 1965, Roly umpired his third Interstate game between Victoria 19.17 d South Australia 9.8, he umpired some of the great full forwards in VFL history such as Hudson, McKenna and Wade. In Roly’s final season on the list, the VFL fixture had matches at the new VFL Park Waverley and Roly umpired there that year on three occasions.

On the list from 1955 – 1970 and 236 games it was mandatory retirement for goal umpires at the age of 50 years. It was also a stipulation that all Goal umpires would have an eyesight test before each season. In Roly’s last season, Umpires Director Alan Nash was standing at training and made the quote ‘my goal umpires are carrying too much weight.’ He contacted George Mather over and appointed him Goal Umpires Physical Trainer to which George ‘The Sadist’ would run the goalies into the ground night after night.  Luckily for Roly he only had to put up with this treatment for one season.

Roly became a Life Member of the VFLUA in 1966.

After working for 48 and a half years, Roly decided to retire and play a round or two of golf. He joined the Southern Golf Club at the age of 67 and remained a member for 23 years. During this time, he won a number of competitions and had the pleasure of getting a hole in one. When the Australian Masters was played at Huntingdale Golf Course, Roly enjoyed volunteering by driving a courtesy bus from the car park to the golf course which he did for 15 years. Roly used to also play at the Umpires’ Golf Day and it is rumoured that on one round he hit the ball under a big tree and not having a shot proceeded to remove the branch that was impeding his shot to the amazement of his fellow umpires.

He has travelled to New Zealand, Tasmania and the top end of Australia and enjoyed numerous holidays on the Sunshine Coast at Mooloolaba. Unfortunately, after 63 years of happy marriage, Roly lost his wife Alma in 2008.

Today his family interests are his daughter Gail, son in law Craig and two grandchildren in Lauren & Nathan. He enjoys reading, watching films and sport on TV and a glass of shiraz with dinner.  He also exercises when he feels up to and is fortunate to enjoy good health and life in general.  Roly is also a regular attendee at the Umpires’ Caulfield reunion and as current umpire Chris Donlon, who was guest speaker at the last luncheon said, Roly is still as sharp as a tack.

On being asked what he thought of today’s game, Roly stated that he thinks the game has deteriorated by not adhering to the rules as they were written years ago.

Roly you have certainly enjoyed a full and interesting career and we wish you all the best for the coming years.

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



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