Someone may be asking where the nickname ‘Dingo’ found its origin for this edition of ‘Where are they now?’ I have it on good authority it originated when John Edward ‘Dingo’ Morgan was on an umpire’s end of season trip in Sydney. It appears John went missing for most of Saturday and Sunday morning with another umpire who shall remain nameless. Allegedly John met up with a female cousin of his but was missing the umpires’ function so much that he returned on Sunday morning, leaving his umpiring mate with his ‘cousin’ on Manly Beach. It was Brian ‘Hook’ Turner who gave John the nickname ‘Dingo’. Enough said.
For those YouTube followers, John was the field umpire in that infamous headbutting incident with boundary umpire Graham Carbery and Essendon player Phil Carmen at Moorabbin, which resulted in Carmen being suspended for 20 weeks. John was reporting Carmen for striking Gary Sidebottom at the time, (who incidentally got 4 weeks for striking), and the ‘Dingo’ had his back to the headbutting incident. John was questioned by the Boardman Geoff Polites and Umpires’ Director Harry Beitzel after the game and in subsequent investigations as to why he didn’t see the Carmen incident. John informed them it was pretty simple as he had his back to the incident.
John, from memory, may hold the record for the least number of Reserve Grade games (six) before being promoted to the Seniors, however it all took place after umpiring for 7 years in the bush. Also, he was the only umpire l’ve known to give up the cigarettes 20 times in a season. He’s been off them now for 25 years, seven months and eleven days and doesn’t miss them at all.
Born on the 21st of January 1947 to parents Jack and May Morgan at Coburg Private Hospital, John has one sibling – a brother Bob. The family lived in Preston where in 1952 John attended the Preston East Primary School until 1958 where upon his graduation he enrolled at the Preston Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Preston Tech until 1962. It was around this time that John joined the Preston Scouts Football Club and after a few years decided that football was not for him. He then decided to join the Preston District Junior Football Association (PDJFA) and try his luck at umpiring. That was during the winter months. In summer, John was fully committed to the Preston Sub District Cricket Club, where he was a handy batsman winning the batting average in the 2nds.
In 1963, John applied for a position with the State Electricity Commission as a Clerk and was with the SEC for 29 years. It was in 1965 John started umpiring with the PDJFA and after 3 years on the list and several finals, he decided to apply to the VFL Reserve Grade where in 1968 he was accepted on the list as a field umpire. His knowledge and understanding of the game saw John promoted to the VFL Senior List, after only one year on the Reserve Grade squad.
In 1969, John joined the Royal Park training track where his first appointment was in the Alberton League for the blockbuster game between Welshpool and Fish Creek. This was a real life changing event for John’s life as the taxi driver for this game was Jimmy Daley who introduced him to Welshpool Secretary Arnie Smith (AFLUA Life Member) who took him to his fishing shack and instructed John to cook his own steak for lunch, a challenge for John who’d never even made a cup of tea. After several seasons umpiring around the bush, Dingo was promoted to the then intermediate group under Harold Hodgson. It wasn’t long before John received a promotion onto the Olympic Park squad under Alan Nash in 1976. On his first night at training John (and Ken Norris) were called into a meeting with Alan and told you’re here to umpire at the senior level and that he’d better give cricket away as he was needed to umpire practice matches. He ultimately resigned from the Preston Sub District Cricket Club but continued to play cricket with the Umpires’ Cricket Club where he was appointed Captain for 5 years.
In 1976, after 13 games in the bush, John was appointed to his first VFL Seconds game between Essendon and South Melbourne at Windy Hill. For some it was common to umpire 20 or more VFL 2nds games before being considered for senior selection, but after 6 Reserve games, he was appointed to his first senior game – Hawthorn v Richmond at Princes Park with yours truly. It was mentioned in Ted Whitten’s newspaper column ‘great to see the two field umpires encouraging each other before the start of the third quarter’. What else would you expect. John was awarded Heritage Number 275 and the certificate takes pride of place in his home office.
Over the next two seasons John held his spot in the Seniors and in 1978 was appointed to two Reserve Grade finals – elimination and First Semi. In 1978, he also served one year on the VFLUA Executive Committee.
John also volunteered to umpire the end of season grudge football match between the prisoners at Pentridge and the VFLUA, a fiery affair with the Stockade winning 12.16 to the Umps 8.5. The funny side to this match was that the prisoners were back in their cells by 3.30pm whilst the umpires ventured to the Pascoe Vale RSL helping the manager close the venue late into the night. John also participated in the Annual UPD at the infamous North Melbourne Reunion for the City Crew candidates, only to run last.
John was appointed to many interleague games when he was out on rotation. He umpired two in Bendigo, one at LaTrobe, Western Border and the Goulburn Valley over the next six years. John was also appointed to VCFL Grand Finals at Coreen and District, Mid-Murray, South West NSW, Farrer, Circular Head Tasmania, Northern District, Goulburn Valley (2), Western Tasmania in Queenstown, LaTrobe Valley and his last game was the Wimmera League Grand Final in 1983 between Horsham and Dimboola with Shane Carbines. John officiated in 119 VFL, 144 VCFL, 22 VFL Reserve Grade, 21 finals and 11 VCFL Grand Finals. John claims his two highlights of his career being a Richmond v Carlton game at the MCG in front of 85,000 spectators and of course his first VFL Senior game.
John made many good friends during his umpiring days, none better than his close friend Bob Dunball. They still communicate three times a week whereby John has to listen to Bob’s myriad of exaggerated stories. The ‘Dingo’ tells me his most embarrassing moment whilst umpiring at the senior level was that he reported an unknown player in a Footscray v Richmond game. He got dropped for being too honest. He still has nightmares over the incident. John’s last senior game was St Kilda v North Melbourne, alongside Greg Sidebottom, who was umpiring his first game.
In 1994, John took on an Observer’s role with the VFL and worked at VFL Park with Ian Coates and John Moss, whilst at the same time he was an assistant to Ian Coates advising in the Goulburn Valley League Umpires’ Association. He succeeded Ian in the following year. After five years observing, John decided it was time to hang up his boots and the family moved to Benalla. John is a keen golfer and became involved with the Benalla Golf Club where he became Honorary Secretary and Captain of the Club.
The ‘Dingo’ loves his golf and after 7 weeks away has put on a few kilos and can’t wait to get back on the golf course to get his handicap down a little, not to mention his weight. At present he plays off 18 but has had his handicap down as low as 11. He plays three times a week and enjoys a good laugh with his golfing mates at the compulsory Thursday night Happy Hour.
In 1991, John took a redundancy package from the SEC and took on a role as Business Manager in the Education Department at Benalla College. He was employed there for 15 years until his retirement in 2006. He worked in a part time administrative position at the Benalla Golf Club for nine years.
It was during his time at the College, that John met his current wife, Lauri, and only recently did the pair tie the knot.
John and Lauri love to travel and since 2013 have visited the USA, Bali, Thailand, China, and in 2017 hired a campervan and for 7 weeks travelled from Darwin to Perth. In May and June this year John & Lauri spent 7 weeks away, 4 in the U.K. and 3 weeks in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Each year the couple spend six weeks in Bargara, Queensland, where they meet up with the Dunball’s, Norris’s, his Brother Bob and Lyn, and other relatives and friends play golf and socialise, as only these blokes can. For the past four years they have joined the Dellers, Sutcliffes, Dunballs and Norris’s for five very enjoyable days at Rich River, golfing, socialising and listening to Dunballs reminiscing. The ‘Dingo’ told me that he loves being in the company of Dunball as he is great company, a laugh a minute, and a wonderful friend and supporter.
John & Lauri, who were married in 2016, have between them 6 children, 4 girls and 2 boys, with 11 grandchildren 5 boys and 6 girls, who by the way are scattered all over Australia. (Perth, Canberra, Toowoomba, Wodonga and Melbourne).
An interesting fact is that John was responsible for Doctors at games wearing arm bands. This follows a report by John charging South Melbourne’s Medical Officer with misconduct during a match against Fitzroy. During the incident Dr Grogan claimed that umpire Morgan told him to get off the ground while he was trying to treat an injured player. The umpire’s charge was discussed at a VFL Director’s meeting and referred to the League’s Administration Committee with a suggestion that any doctors wear an armband.
John continues to love football finding it both entertaining and enjoyable, especially when his beloved Fitzroy, now Brisbane Lions, are winning. He watches most games on Fox, is an avid ABC TV and radio fan and a lover of all sports.
John was just about to hit the golf course when l finished this story. To him l say: ‘Hit them long and straight John, it has been great to catch up. Safe travels on your journey up north.’
Graeme ‘Whizzer’ Fellows