It is with pleasure that I bring to you Ronald Keith Bailey J.P., one of the hardest workers for our association that you would ever meet. Nothing is too much for Ron as he prepares and organizes the X-men umpire functions, held at Mornington for the blokes and Darebin for the couples, as well as looking after umpires who are on tough times.
Born to Walter Joseph and Ruby Eileen Bailey on the 15th February 1942 at the Elsternwick Hospital, Ron, their only child spent the first seven years of his life in the country at Tynong.
In 1949 the family moved to Abbottsford where Ron enrolled at the Cromwell Street Primary School in Collingwood. His schooling days were more academic than sporting, although Ron on the sporting side was captain of both the school football team and the cricket team, and when Ron transferred to the North Fitzroy Secondary School in 1954, the school saw fit to make Ron the house and form captain. Not long after an unfortunate accident saw Ron hit by a motor car and spend the next 15 days’ unconscious in hospital where his mother and father were by his bed side the whole time, talking to Ron and telling him not to give up and keep on fighting. Thank heavens Ron made a full recovery although it took several years for him to become fully fit.
Missing many weeks of his schooling, Ron’s parents decided in 1956, that he should transfer to the Northcote High School to further his education. On the sporting field Ron played in the School’s under 16’s football team, and it was during this time that Ron picked up the nickname “Alfie”. He was offered the position as school prefect but declined the offer.
His family moved in with an aunty in Sandringham whilst their new home was being built in Mordialloc, and in 1957, Ron needed to play a sport to increase his level of fitness, so he decided to try out with VFA club, Sandringham Thirds. He spent most of the time as a spectator but managed two games in that season. Not happy with his participation rate as a footballer, Ron’s dad Walter, who was a goal umpire in the VFA, talked his son into becoming a football umpire with the VFA.
It was during 1959 that Ron started his working career as a Clerk of Courts in Melbourne and it was during this period that Ron had been introduced to Lynette by a female co-worker. Four years later Lynette and Ron married in Mordialloc. At the same time Ron moved from the VFA to the VFL and in 1966 joined the Senior list jumping over the Reserve Grade list of umpires. Ron’s first game was in the West Gippsland League, Pakenham v. Drouin. Ron left the courts and joined the public service as a Family Welfare Councillor.
Ron claims his best and only grand final was to a mid-week appointment in 1967 – the Tramways grand final, played at Toorak Park. These games were normally very tough and needed plenty of whistle to maintain control. Ron did just that with both teams forming a guard of honour at the end of the match to clap him off the ground. It didn’t finish there as not long after the match, the Government’s Minister for Transport invited Ron to be his guest at a lavish function where crayfish was the order of the day. Ron tells me he didn’t get home that night until 3 am in the morning. Ron enjoyed the game so much that he became the mid- week KING and over the next 4 years officiated at 59 mid-week games. This was a wise move as his training at Royal Park Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday were at the venues of most of his mid-week Appointments. Ron tells me that the best midweek football he has ever umpired were the inter-college matches at Melbourne University.
In 1969, Ron have his one and only final’s match in the Tatiara League reserves, Keith v. Mundulla. In 1971, Ron stood for representation on the Social Committee, elected by his peers and served one year.
Ron was appointed to the Western Border league in 1971, not once but twice, to Casterton where they had a lady who would almost every game try to attack the Umpire with her umbrella at the end of the game. On both occasions the so-called lady was escorted from the ground by the local law enforcement officers, so Ron considered himself very lucky.
The 1973 season was Ron’s last game with his final appointment being Padthaway v. Apsley in the Kowree Naracoort League in South Australia. He transferred his umpiring ability to the East Suburban Churches Competition in 1974 which was closer to home and less travel. Being closer to home Ron saw the opportunity to apply for a position as Secretary of the Yarra Bend Trust, and who should be his boss but none other than Eric McCutcheon ex-VFL boss.
Being closer to home, Ron & Lynette decided to start a family and in 1975 their first child a boy Cameron arrived, and then in 1976 their second child also a boy Troy.
In 1981, Ron retired from umpiring after 22 years and with his retirement he saw the opportunity to move on from the Yarra Bend Trust, and in 1982, became a Police Officer. Twenty-two years later Ron suffered a nervous breakdown and was on WorkCover. It was during his sick leave in 2005 that Ron became a Justice of the Peac. At the same time, the then CEO of the AFLUA, Bill Deller, OAM called Ron in and offered him a position with the AFLUA as the association’s Welfare Officer, the position he continues to hold today.
It took a year to organize the Mornington function as Ron has over 100 retired life members and members on his books. He rings everyone two weeks prior to see if they will be attending.
Nothing stresses Ron out. He is such an easy going gentleman, anything makes him laugh and when asked about books, movies and the internet his answer was PARDON! He has only travelled around Australia and never been overseas, when I asked him what he thinks of today’s football, his reply was “Don’t quite understand it, get confused with the merry-go-round that takes place”. He told me he did not have a favourite umpire but considered Jeff Crouch, Jack Irving and Bill Deller, OAM amongst the best.
In 2008 Ron retired from his full-time employment to concentrate on his newly appointed position with the AFLUA and in 2010 the AFLUA granted Honorary Life Membership to Ron, a thoroughly deserved award.
These days Ron gets very excited about the functions he organizes those being Mornington and Darebin, not to mention the excellent work he carries out in looking after members in tough times. One such member who we wrote up recently – Ross Raphael is legally blind and almost deaf. Ron travels from Eltham to Bentleigh, quite often once a week to escort Ross to Lodge functions as well as umpire functions. Well done Ron!
These days Ron is a little slower as during 2016, he had a bad fall breaking his hip which required a hip replacement and many weeks in hospital himself. Prior to the fall Ron would walk over 6 kms a day keeping fit, but the fall has put a stop to all that, although he still manages to get around with the help of crutches.
One interesting sideline when interviewing Ron was, he was so convinced he joined the VFL in 1964 but unfortunately the League do not have any records of those two years. Sorry Ron we did our best for you but being a copper you would understand we must have evidence to substantiate a claim.
Great Work Ron, see you at the next Darebin Function.
Ron’s umpiring statistics
112 VCFL Appointments;
1 VCFL 1st Semi Final (Tatiara League Reserve Grade (Keith v. Mundulla);
3 Metropolitan League;
59 Midweek games;
1 Midweek Grand Final.
TOTAL APPOINTMENTS – 175
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme “Whizzer” Fellows