Chapter 13 - Umpiring

Chapter 13



National championships

During the first decade of national championships umpires were required for between 14 (1949) and 36 (1959) matches. Three umpires were allocated to each match so the number of umpires grew from 42 in 1949 to 144 in 1959. They were covered by a roster of between 8 and 15 umpires, numbers varying according to location, availability of baseball umpires and, after 1955, the number of softballers undertaking the examinations.


The demand for umpires accelerated in 1970 when the Under 16 Girls’ championship was added to the national calendar followed by the Under 19 Women in 1979. From 1971 to 1975 the ASF relaxed its ruling that matches had to be under the control of Australian badged umpires or candidates and allowed those holding State badges to assist. These were usually team officials like the coach, manageress and scorer whose umpiring duties were rostered around their team duties creating an extra workload for them. For example, the Under 16 Girls’ Championship in Melbourne in 1971 had 10 All Australian (AA) umpires and 13 other people fulfilling umpiring duties. This practice ceased in 1975.  The under age tournaments were played over successive weeks in January in different States/Territories. The Senior Women remained in March until 1985 when all women’s national champion-ships were played in January. Each tournament consisted of a single round robin and double elimination finals played from Saturday to Saturday. The rationalization was necessary because players and officials could no longer spend several weeks at national championships. Venues had to accommodate multiple diamonds and lighting for night matches. With all eight States and Territories participating, there were 40 matches – 28 qualifying and 12 finals – in each division. With three umpires rostered to each match 120 umpiring positions had to be filled at each championship making a total of 360 for the three women’s divisions in January. Variations occurred when the Northern Territory did not field teams in all divisions.


The next increase in the demand for umpires was in 1984 when the Senior Men contested their national championships followed by the Under 19 Men in 1989 and Under 16 Boys in 1992, although the latter two were often played concurrently at the same venue thus slightly reducing demand. The Senior Men played in March while the under age men played in January at the same time as the women meaning umpires were needed for five national championships in the space of two to three weeks. This meant there were another two to three hundred positions to be covered in the January rosters making a total of almost 600 positions. It also meant that there were more opportunities for the examination of candidates. Some umpires made themselves available for more than one championship. Former UIC Margo Koskelainen noted that the Umpire Program would not have been able to service all of the championships in January unless the umpires flew from one tournament to the next, often leaving one a day or so early to be at the next one for the opening matches. At most championships two matches were played concurrently in the qualifying rounds and early stage of the finals eliminations. Tasmania has not fielded men’s teams and the Northern Territory and South Australia have not been regular participants. Between 2003 and 2008 the ASF experimented with Under 23 championships for women and men played at the same venue in March. In 2005 61 umpires made themselves available for 91 jobs – umpiring, TCU, examining - at the eight national championships.


From 1947 to 1953 the hostess State was responsible for obtaining umpires. As a derivative of an existing sport, softball was able to draw on the expertise of baseball players and officials in its formative years. The first female umpires were June Cahill and Margaret Laing, both South Australians, who umpired alongside their baseball colleagues at the national championships in Adelaide in 1951. The turning point came in 1954 in Melbourne when five women along with three men presented as candidates for the Australian Umpire’s Badge. Four women and one man passed. Hereafter the AWSC had sufficient umpires and candidates to cover up to three matches per day with non-playing and male umpires/candidates calling two matches per day. The number of Australian umpires and candidates varied from championship to championship. From 1955 to 1970 the number of badged umpires volunteering at nationals grew from 3 to 15 with Victoria providing more than other States/Territory. This was probably due to the influence of Esther Deason and Marj Dwyer who vigorously promoted umpiring in their home State and because umpires, like players, had to use their annual leave to attend national championships and cover most of their expenses. Not all badged umpires continued to volunteer and by 1974 there were only 28 active Australian umpires.

People wishing to umpire at national championships nominated via their State/Territory association and when Under age and men’s championships began, nominees specified which championship they preferred although it was not always possible to grant every first preference. Umpires with more flexible holiday leave were able to umpire at one or two national championship. From 1972 to 1985 the UIC also served as the TCU overseeing umpiring of matches, the examination of candidates and negotiating any protests and disputes with no active umpiring on the diamond. With multiple national championships played concurrently after 1985, the role of the TCU was shared amongst the most highly qualified umpires under the direction of the UIC, Margo Koskelainen.


The examinations

At national level the initial priority was to have sufficient reputable umpires to control the national championships and players had to be prepared to umpire. Education programmes were necessary to ensure umpires were of the required standards in both the theoretical and practical components. At its inaugural Council meeting in March 1949, the AWSC opted to focus on the theoretical component and each State association was asked to bring a set of questions to the following Council meeting for the compilation of the theory examination under the direction of an Umpires’ Committee. Not all the States had an umpires’ committee or board, so the AWSC deferred discussion of umpires’ examinations at successive Council meetings. The first steps towards formalisation of examinations occurred at the Council meeting in Sydney in 1953. Pat Young, Joyce King and Dulcie Isted from NSW formed a committee to set the theoretical examination with a pass mark of 85% for an A grade certificate. Each State was requested to contribute questions and answers for the examination held simultaneously in October in all States. The practical examination was undertaken at the national championships following the theory examination, that is, theory in October 1953 followed by practical in March 1954.


At the 1954 national championships in Melbourne New Zealand participated in the round robin stage prior to contesting a three match Test Series after the finals between State teams. According to Esther Deason the intention had been to examine the candidates for Australian umpires’ badges only during matches in which New Zealand played. Twelve candidates who successfully passed the Australian Theory Exam indicated on their Theory Examination paper their intention to attend the national championships for their practical examination. In 1954 three candidates were unable to attend so the AWSC agreed they could be examined at the next national championship. However, nine candidates was more than originally expected and a pragmatic solution was taken ‘so Victoria went ahead and rostered them for all games doing the best they could to avoid strain on players doing their practical exam’. The examinations were conducted by ‘five fully qualified Victorian Senior Baseball men’.Three of the panel assessed each candidate ‘on two centrals and two lines’. If they could not do so, then the other two panel members observed the candidate at least once as a central umpire and once as a line umpire. The results of the examination were handed to the Victorian Umpires Association which in turn forwarded them to the AWSC. Five candidates were successful in 1954 with Esther Deason (Victoria) being awarded the Number 1 Australian Umpires Badge followed by Margaret Laing (SA), Don Caldecoat (Victoria), Doris Baker (NSW) and Yvonne Cox (NSW).1 The pass mark for the practical examination was set at 80%. Candidates who failed the practical examination were eligible to retake it at the following championship. The Victorian Umpires’ Association made three recommendations for future examinations:

(1) each State set the examination in turn one year ahead of the interstate carnival being held in their State; (2) all States were requested to send copies of their State examination together with the markings to the next State to set the Australian theory exam together with three questions before the 30th June, and that a copy of previous Australian papers should be forwarded to them at the same time; and (3) that a copy of each Australian exam be forwarded to the Australian Secretary to enable her to keep a master file on record Successful candidates were awarded a badge or certificate.


Eleven candidates including WA’s Val Johnson presented for the 1955 practical examinations. The pass mark was set at 75%.2 The examining panel consisted of Yvonne Cox (Australian Umpire and Chairman), Pat Young (NSW Executive), Edith Richards (NSW former coach), Mr K Anderson (NSW baseball player) and Esther Deason (Australian Umpire). Where practical three of the panel assessed each candidate with the other members available as needed. The criteria against which the candidates were assessed were: (1) demeanour; (2) control of ground; (3) method of calling; (4) getting into position; and (5) appearance on the ground. The candidates were awarded a mark out of 100. The results were given to the AWSC before the finals. WA’s Val Johnson and five other candidates did not pass. Johnson believed that she had been heavily penalized for wearing slacks rather than a skirt, the slacks being necessary to keep her legs warm following her prolonged bout of poliomyelitis.3 The uniform requirement set at the previous AWSC meeting was loosely described as either grey skirt or slacks with a white top with no specific reference to gender. Among the five who passed was Marj Dwyer who later became Australian Umpire-in-Chief. The AWSC agreed to have 25 AA Umpires badges produced using a die the Queensland association had previously offered.After the championship the panel recommended that the AWSC ‘keep [the] practical percentage very high when examining candidates. Suggested practical pass be 85%’. Esther Deason was appointed Convenor of the Interpretation of Rules Committee-Central Umpires Committee with Yvonne Cox and Myrtle Edwards (Victoria, Australian coach) joining her. This committee was appointed for two years with the intention being to follow it with an Australian Umpires’ Association. In preparation for hosting the 1957 national championship the WAWSC was designated to conduct the 1956 umpires theory examination on a suitable date in late October. This meant that the paper had to be ready in September 1955 so it could be considered at the AWSC meeting in Adelaide in March 1956. Johnson seconded a successful motion to have numbers rather than names used on future theory papers.


The practical examination of umpires was further refined at the 1956 national championships. The dress code was clarified with ‘grey slacks and white tops for men and grey skirts and white tops for women’. Set points were allotted to each of the five criteria: (1) knowledge and interpretation 18 points; (2) appearance 2 points; (3) control and demeanour 15 points; (4) position for calling 5 points; and (5) method of calling 10 points. The total points were doubled to give a mark out of 100 with the pass mark set at 95%. It was agreed that the marks of the successful candidates would be recorded but only the names of the unsuccessful ones with confidential individual reports given to all candidates. Seven of the nine candidates passed. Val Johnson was successful with a mark of 96.5%. After some debate the Council decided that only three umpires would be used in the grand final because a fourth umpire had not been used in any prior matches. John Tyson (South Australia) who scored 100% in his practical examination was given the honour of being the central umpire. The AWSC was now confident in its ability to fully conduct the sport in Australia and voted to have ‘the Australian Women’s Softball Council Rule book … stabilised for a period of not less than three years’. It would appear that this resulted from confusing rules in the book provided by the Joint Rules Committee of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America which was the foremost authority on the sport.


Centralisation of examinations

Moves to centralize the control of the Australian umpires’ examinations with the Central Umpires’ Committee were advanced at the 1956 AWSC meeting. Tasmania would set the 1956 theory examination and Queensland that for 1957. Thereafter the Central Umpires’ Committee would take charge. This was delayed at the 1958 AWSC meeting when Victoria was given to opportunity to prepare the theory examination because it had not done so. Clear By Laws were set down for the committee to operate under the control of the AWSC. The theory examination was to be conducted on the last Monday of October each year in all States. Emphasis was placed upon the candidates for the Australian badge having passed the examinations in her/his own State and being approved by their State to seek national qualifications. The examination panel comprised Australian badged umpires rather than a panel nominated by the hostess State. The Central Umpires’ Committee, chaired by Esther Deason since 1953, reported to the AWSC meeting each year. In the minutes there were several variations in its title including the Central Umpires’ Interpretation Panel. Its major activities focused on providing interpretations of rules as raised by teams across Australia and liaising with their American counterparts when there was confusion over technicalities. At the 1959 AWSC meeting in Brisbane it was felt that the:

… time might now be opportune for a meeting to be held during the Carnival for the purpose of Australian Umpires getting together and discussing rules, and for the introduction of candidates to other umpires, to give them the feeling of interstate umpiring.

The first meeting took place in 1960 in Melbourne with Val Johnson in the Chair. The AWSC now granted limited financial support to Australian umpires to travel by second-class rail to national championships.



The status quo was maintained until the Women’s First World Championships held in Melbourne in 1965 after which it was apparent that changes were needed to maintain credibility in the international arena. The AWSC constitution was thoroughly revised with an elected President replacing the chairperson from the hostess State. Esther Deason became the first elected President in 1967. She relinquished her leadership of the Rules Interpretation Committee and examination panel. In 1968 a new position of Umpire-in-Chief (UIC) was created. Marj Dwyer from Victoria was appointed. She initially attended AWSC meetings as a delegate for Victoria and was ratified at the meetings as the umpires’ representative. A new grading system for umpires was accepted by the AWSC. A candidate who passed both the theoretical and practical examination in their first year at national level was classified as a Grade 4 umpire. To progress to higher grades - Grade 1 being the highest - it was necessary apply for re-examination for each grade sought.


Among the changes resulting from a revision of the Constitution in 1971 the Council was given the power to elect the UIC and two deputies, all of whom were appointed for two years and eligible for re-election. In the By Laws the UIC was given power over all aspects of umpiring from the right to collect fees to appoint personnel to matches including the Under 16 Girls’ championship to the conduct of umpiring clinics in Australia and neighbouring countries. Of special importance was the acceptance of the need for uniform standards of examination and a single theory paper was set for both State and Australian candidates with the former marked in their own State according to an answer sheet provided by the UIC. By 1974 the cost of preparing and distributing theory papers was mounting. Of the 350 papers distributed only a small number were returned for grading prompting the UIC to recommend that the ASF charge 50 cents per paper. The ASF settled on 20 cents per paper which did curtail some of the wastage.


In 1973 the UIC instigated the first national seminar for umpires which was held in Melbourne. Despite the workload the UIC now carried she attended ASF meetings as a Victorian State delegate, just like the Honorary Secretary. In 1975 both positions were made independent of the State delegates. Efforts to form an Australian Umpires’ Association under the auspices of the ASF teetered along until 1976 when it was finally formalized. The UIC proposed that seven deputies be appointed – one per State/Territory association – but the Council opted to retain just two. Further refinements of the examination system continued. Between 1971 and 1984, candidates for Australian badges could only be examined at the Senior Women’s national championships. The Under 16 and Under 19 championships provided ‘practice’ time but this was discontinued in 1986. Between 1982 and 1985 the ASF awarded the Federation Badge to candidates who completed their practical examination at under age national championships. It was possible for candidates to successfully complete their Federation Badge in January and their Australian Badge in March of the same year. When umpiring was restructured in 1986 the Federation Badge became Level 5. ‘Practice’ time was dispensed with at the same time when the ASF resolved that all umpires had to work at Level 5 for at least one year before presenting for Level 6 examinations. In 1982 the Level 5 badged was designated Federation A badge to distinguish it from State badges at the lower levels and to mark it as a stepping stone to the Australian badge at Level 6. By 1985 74 Australian badges had been awarded with the distribution across the States and Territories biased towards Victoria which had 30 (but none since 1979). The next highest was South Australia with 12 followed by NSW (10), Queensland (9), WA (5), ACT (5), Tasmania (2) and Northern Territory (1).

However, umpiring Australia-wide underwent a total restructuring when the ASF Board of Management removed UIC Marj Dwyer from office in February 1985. She had become increasingly autocratic in her administration and inflexible in her interpretation of the rules. Her interpretation of the pitching rules had caused tension at the First Women’s World Championship in Melbourne in 1965. Over the next two decades illegal pitching became a canker in Australian softball. A moratorium in the early 1980s for under age championships allowed young pitchers to develop confidence but at senior level there was still controversies. Coaches and players came to believe that the umpires – especially the Victorian ones - perceived themselves to be the core of the sport. The situation came to a head at the Australian Games in Melbourne in January 1985 when the New Zealand men’s team competing by invitation staged a protest walk off. Despite their sometimes tense relationship with Dwyer the WASA was critical of the manner of her dismissal and supported attempts to have her reinstated but there was no going back for the ASF.



Margo Koskelainen was appointed NDU and was supported by the National Umpiring Committee (NUC). Although she had been mentored by Dwyer, Koskelainen was her own person who emphasized that umpires were servants of the sport and the sport was more important than personalities. She led a major overhaul of the umpiring system resulting in an eight level system which provided a clear path from State to international accreditation. Levels 1 to 4 were placed under the control of the State/Territory Associations. Levels 5 to 8 were national responsibility with Levels 7 and 8 being of international standard. The date of the annual theory examination was shifted to the last Monday in May to accommodate winter competitions. Australian umpires came into line with their international colleagues when the uniform was changed to dark blue pants and pale blue shirt for both males and females leading to nickname of ‘the Blues’.


International umpiring

Umpiring of the Test matches against New Zealand in the 1950s was integrated into the rostering of umpires for the national championships which immediately preceded the Tests. The first challenge occurred in 1960 when Australia hosted South Africa in Melbourne. The South African Manager, Mr Crafford, insisted that it was his right as a visitor to select the umpires and threatened that his team would boycott the first Test if he could not do so. Despite considerable negotiation, the AWSC decided agreed to his demand so play could go ahead. For the First Women’s World Championships in 1965, Australia provided eight umpires, six from Victoria and two from South Australia. Differences in interpretation of the rules caused some angst among the teams especially since the American pitcher, Bertha Tickey, was called for illegal pitching for the first time in her life. This was despite the ASA UIC, Mr Dickstein, conducting an umpires’ clinic before competition began. The ailing ISF was rejuvenated at the First Women’s World Championship and focused on standards for future events including the establishment of a register of international umpires. Marj Dwyer, Margaret Laing (South Australia) and Esther Deason were nominated for ISF registration and to form a panel for qualifying other Australian umpires for ISF registration. Following subsequent updates of the ISF system, the first Australian umpire to gain ISF accreditation was Vivienne Tripplett in 1978 (Badge Number 49). Prior to the 1980 Mini World Series in Brisbane 15 Australian umpires were certified by the ISF including UIC Marj Dwyer (Badge Number 94) and Deputy UIC Audrey McLaughlin (Badge Number 96). Two distinct cloth badges were designed to be worn on the sleeves of the shirts of those who qualified as Australian and international umpires. The latter was strictly an Australian initiative and only worn during international matches.

With Women’s World Championships scheduled every four years, the ASF was able to nominate one umpire for each championship. As well, an umpire was usually included in each Australian team venturing overseas although once at the championship site, the umpire came under the jurisdiction of the ISF UIC to ensure impartiality. With the number of international events rapidly escalating Koskelainen embarked on a project to have more Australian umpires reach international standard. Ten umpires were selected as an elite squad. WA’s Steve Suckling and Marie Marland were included but Marland had to withdraw for health reasons.


The squad began work in January 1990 with a clinic in Sydney before the Senior Women’s national championship where the practical elements of the new rotational umpiring system were refined. Then followed the Umpires’ Tour to Canada including 10 days at the Umpires’ School in Vancouver before heading to the USA for the Seventh Women’s World Championship in Normal, Illinois, USA, in July. At the championship it became clear that there was a huge gap between the few top umpires and the majority of middle to low umpires. This prompted the ISF to introduce a new system of accreditation for international events with Elite Training Clinics to help raise standards across all countries. The tour was a private one for which the umpires paid approximately $8,000 each. The WASA contributed $400 to Suckling’s expenses. For formal occasions the touring umpires added ‘dress blues’ to their wardrobe with powder blue blazers, white shirts and navy blue skirts for women and navy blue pants for men. In his report Suckling emphasized ‘that the USA and Canadian umpires were 300% more professional’. This he attributed tothe greater amount of umpiring with many working five to seven nights per week which had the added advantage of bringing them into contact with more umpires. Suckling was surprised that for most matches the USA and Canadian umpires used a two-person system with the three-person system only implemented for national tournaments. The two-person system proved cost effective andallowed more matches to be covered.


An Australian Umpiring Summit was held in 1992 at which umpiring followed developments in the workforce with the introduction of performance indicators. Accredited evaluators were added. Level 1 and 2 evaluators assessed umpires aspiring to Levels 1 to 4 and Level 3 and 4 evaluators assess umpires for Levels 5 and 6. A follow up clinic 12 months later showed this had been an appropriate development. Level 7 focused on international events in Australia and for umpires who officiated at Junior World Championships while Level 8 umpires worked at international events overseas including Senior World Championships. Level 6 umpires were invited to prepare for Levels 7 and 8. Over the course of two to three years they were nurtured through a series of clinics and individual practical development programs. Successful candidates were recommended to the ISF UIC for ISF certification. The ASF covered the $US550 fee. As well, umpires were also accredited to conduct lectures on rules and interpretations. These efforts paid off as Australian umpires were allocated to key matches at World Championships and the Olympic Games.


Government support

National standards of officiating for all sports were introduced in 1994 when the Australian Sports Commission established the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme (NOAS). Softball was one of 40 sports to sign up. Essentially the NOAS works with National Sporting Associations to develop a group of skilled officials. Its training programs had three prongs: (a) general principles covering the fundamentals of officiating and event management; (b) sports specific focusing on technical rules, interpretations, reporting and sports specific roles for officials; and (c) practical officiating and application of officiating principles. Over time the NOAS has evolved to the point where novices seeking to register as Softball Australia umpires must fulfill the requirements set by the NOAS and use the registration forms it provides.4 In 1998 the notion of accreditation for life was removed. All umpires at national championships were subject to performance reviews and those who failed to reach the required standard in two successive years were downgraded.5


During the 2000s the levels of accreditation were revised. Eight levels were retained but the requirements at each adjusted to encourage rather than discourage aspirants. The theory examination is multiple-choice format. Those aiming for Level 1 or 2 accreditation may sit a modified form of it – basic paper – which can be taken at any time of the year. The pass is scaled from 50% for Level 1 to 80% for Levels 5 and 6. The practical examination is geared to specific settings with Levels 2 to 4 being local or state competitions, Levels 5 to 6 are assessed at national tournaments and Levels 7 and 8 are recognition accreditations awarded by the Softball Australia National Umpiring Program. As well, each level requires a minimum number of years of experience which match the level, for example, Level 1 requires 1 year while Level 6 requires 6 years.6



Umpires for club matches

The priority for the WAWSA was to have sufficient umpires to cover matches played each Saturday afternoon on Langley Park. In the first season there were two matches per week which required four umpires – one plate and one first base per match. As the association grew during the 1950s to include numerous grades and up to 10 teams per grade, the number of umpires required increased substantially. The solution was straightforward: the teams umpired themselves.  he rostering of umpires for the weekly inter-club matches was set out on the front of the fixture card. The 1952-53 season fixture card stated ‘First team listed as playing is home team. If you are the home team you will plate umpire (if not, you will base umpire) the game scheduled on the same diamond at the opposite time’. In other words, teams playing at 1:45pm were umpired by members of teams playing at 3:30pm and vice versa. Both umpires were responsible for selecting ‘the first, second and third best and fairest players from the match’and had to sign the score sheet. For the A grade teams, the umpire was often their coach who usually played baseball in winter. For example, Blue Jays had Bill Wells, Fremantle had George Wenn, Hell’s Angels has Dennis Osbourne, Victoria Park had Andy Meloncelli and Nedlands Rookies had Ron Featherby.


This system has basically continued to the present with some adjustments. As people became badged umpires they were appointed to A, A Reserve and Junior A grade matches. There were some people, not necessarily holding badges, who preferred to umpire junior softball believing that they could do most to serve the sport by giving juniors the best experience possible. When the WASA was at its peak in the1980s it had 108 senior teams playing at Yokine Reserve each Saturday afternoon plus another 36 junior teams spread between Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. In excess of 140 teams meant 70 plus matches divided across two main time slots. With a plate umpire plus two base umpires per match, approximately 210 people had umpiring duties. Badged umpires usually covered more than one match so the total would have been slightly less. During the season clubs rostered players for umpiring duties so the number of umpires per season was very high. Unfortunately, not everyone abided by the directions on the fixtures and completed their umpiring duties. In October 1952 a fine of 10 shillings was set for teams not supplying an umpire. The fine has been increased substantially in line with the cost of living to be $20 or more in recent seasons. Over the years different penalties have been tested. Deduction of premiership points alone or in conjunction with monetary fines has been the most common but not necessarily the deterrent desired. Each WAWSA /WASA meeting included a list of clubs with outstanding fines and at the AGM clubs which had not paid were not able to vote, although again that seemed not to be a major concern. Persistent offenders were barred from following season until the balance sheet had been cleared and that did help keep clubs in the association but not always with the desired effect on umpiring.


When the WAMSL began in 1976 it opted for a similar approach, that is, most umpiring was done by the players. Badged umpires were preferred for the top divisions which meant that umpires became year-round softballers. When the competitions were re-named Summer and Winter, the umpires sought to have a one-month break between them.  The commencement of the State League in 1991 increased the demand for umpires substantially since matches were scheduled over four days/nights per week and ran concurrently with the Summer competition. A roster of 20 to 25 umpires was needed for the State League season which had over 600 matches. As well, State League matches were played on clubs’ home grounds which meant umpires had to travel to a variety of venues. Unfortunately, umpires were not always informed of cancellations or changes of venue leading to some unease. The umpires requested to be exempted from paying the entry fee to Mirrabooka when on official duty which was not viewed favourably by the League convenors. During the 1990s the number of qualified umpires available for State League matches declined as relations between the State Umpiring Committee, the State League Committee and the WASA became increasingly antagonistic. There were only sufficient umpires for roster at Mirrabooka, not home grounds. Frustrated, the League decided that if umpires would not cover all matches then no umpires would be needed. It was a Catch-22 situation with fewer umpires covering more matches and exposing themselves to increased likelihood of burnout and withdrawal from umpiring. As Julie Richardson, SDU, pointed out in her monthly report in September 1998, the umpires for the State League were drawn from various affiliates upon the request of the State Umpiring Committee.


The WASUA was not recognized by the WASA. SEDSUA was the only organization of umpires but it tended to cater for outer metropolitan competitions. The situation was complicated because the TCU for the State League, Peter Baker, was elected by the League and did not liaise with the SDU. The SDU was free to umpire but had no other responsibilities. The ground rules for the State League were perceived to undermine the status of the umpires who were expected to call games but were not protected from abusive players and coaches. The SDU plus the State Training Officer (Peter Richardson) and Regional Training Officer (B Nissen) withdrew their services to the State League because of the SDU’s perceived rebuke by the League and lack of support from the WASA. All, however, chose to continue national duties. Baker thought it would be to the umpires’ advantage to have recent experience with the State League before participating in the national championships. After serious thought Baker submitted a proposal to recruit umpires for the State League using a core of 10 ASF umpires to work alongside recruits with clinics and training for all who were interested.  In addition, whenever possible, umpires responded to requests from country associations to umpire grand finals and to conduct seminars. Again, it was often those already committing a major portion of their time to softball that volunteered such as Joy Marsland and Pat Tatham. The commencement of the State Championships in 1974 added a long weekend of full day umpiring to already busy schedules.


Educating umpires

From the outset the association attempted to educate people to umpire. Bill Wells conducted classes for umpires in preparation for the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons but few people attended and classes were discontinued in January 1953. The association also considered appointing supervisors to ‘watch the umpiring of various grades and correct umpiring at the end of the game, politely pointing out any errors made and the reasons thereof’. When the national examination system came into being there were several attempts to force clubs to send representatives to preparatory sessions and theory examinations but again there was a poor response.  However, by the end of the 1952-53 season sufficient people were considered worthy contenders to umpire the finals. They included State team players such as Rona Blunt, Val Johnson, June Craig, Pat Tatham and Faye Whittaker plus A grade player E Vagg with the remainder coming from the baseball: Bill Wells, George Wenn, R Wylde, R Baker, Dennis Osbourne, H Gibbons, L Cooper, M Sladden, N Bull, M Colquohoun, Alf Bunting, B Muse, J Wardrope, R Penn, K Carwardine and J Porteous.


To emphasise the importance of umpires they were recognized in the Constitution as the WAWSA’s representatives and they could join the Umpires’ Board which had ‘full power to deal with all matters affecting Umpires acting for the Association’. The Umpires’ Board had responsibility for the examination of umpires. A pass at State level was a prerequisite for attempting to become an Australian umpire. In the 1960s a feud erupted between coaches and umpires and the WAWSA decided to invite the Australian Chief Umpire, Marj Dwyer, to Perth at the beginning of the 1966-67 season to conduct a series of seminars. President Colin Smith described Dwyer’s pending visit as ‘the most important single event to happen in WA softball in many years’. She was sponsored by the Rothman’s Foundation (a public relations exercise in all sports by the tobacco company). Dwyer lectured and provided a practical demonstration as central umpire for the A grade match on 22 October between Hell’s Angels and Fremantle Rebels. Without any current practicing Australian umpires WA was not affected by the new grading system for umpires introduced in the 1967-68 season but it was becoming increasingly clear that WA needed more and better qualified umpires.


Approximately 60 people sat the State theoretical examination in 1973 with four passes in Grade 1, four in Grade 2 and seven in Grade 3. With just 15 people passing, many must have wondered why they set themselves up to fail. A fine distinction in terminology crept into reports. ‘Full-time’ was used to describe umpires such as Johnson, Leyland and Cheryl Arnold who were not attached to clubs and whose primary involvement with softball was umpiring. ‘Part-time’ were those like Bob McKibbin and Nina Menner whose principal role was a club coach but who umpired as well. For many undertaking the examinations, umpiring was in addition to all their other responsibilities at club and State level. Most State officials undertook umpire accreditation. In 1973 the UIC instigated the first national seminar for umpires which was held in Melbourne. Marie Taylor was WA’s sole representative and was self-funded. She was a State umpire but not an Australian one.


The severity of the situation in WA was highlighted by the UIC in December 1973 when she reported to the WAWSA and the ASF meeting that the standard of theory examination papers from WA was particularly low. She suggested that she conduct lectures while she was in Perth to attend the Under 16 Girls’ championship in January 1974. Dwyer again visited Perth in late 1984. She conducted seminars in Bunbury and Northam and at Yokine Reserve. These were videotaped for the association to sell or hire. Dwyer also made four 20-minute tapes at the Churchlands Campus of the WA College of Advanced Education for use in schools and by tertiary students. She also mentored West Australians who were preparing for their Australian umpires’ practical examinations in the forthcoming national championships in early 1985. During the 1987-88 season UIC Margo Koskelainen visited WA to conduct a Remote Area Umpiring Clinic.


The education of umpires was directed towards two different groups. The first, somewhat reluctant, were the players who had to fulfill plate and base duties during club matches. They were encouraged to sit the State theory examination and were assisted with a series of preparatory lectures. The second, most enthusiastic, were those who aspired to be badged umpires. This latter group was the main focus for the first residential seminar held at Point Peron Camp School in April 1988. The main lecturers were Koskalainen, Marland and Michael Palmer, the latter having recently moved to WA from Tasmania. The camp became an annual feature of the umpires’ calendar although support for it varied from year to year. The major challenge for the organizers was to cater for the range of levels of participants who tended to come from the ranks of Level 0 to 4 umpires.


Before the 1991 State Championships Alan McAuliffe, a Level 8 ASF umpire and South Australian Director of Umpiring, conducted a theory session on Friday evening followed by assessment of candidates over the weekend. In a novel approach to increasing the number of umpires in the Summer Competition, the WASA joined the Green Shirt Program in 2008. This was adapted by the Department of Sport and Recreation from a similar scheme in South Australia. The program aimed to reduce the incidence of abuse and harassment directed towards inexperienced officials and so improve retention rates at the grassroots level. Each club was asked to nominate one person who would be their umpiring representative each week and participate in a lecture series on the rules. To distinguish these novices they wore official green shirts.7 Among those to accept the challenge was Lorraine Page playing in Demons A grade team over 50 years since she began with Boans. For those who persisted and earned accreditation, there was also the bonus of being paid to umpire which brought them into line with their international colleagues. One of the first points made by Marland in her report of her trip to the USA in 1983 was the amazement of American umpires that their Australian colleagues were not paid for their services. The Americans received between $60 and $80 per double-header and many made this their employment. Payment of $5 per game was introduced for umpires covering A and A Reserve senior plates at Yokine Reserve for the 1982-83 season. The case for payment was argued on the basis that full-time umpires bore considerable expense in attaining their qualifications as well as buying the requisite equipment and traveling. They did not have the support of clubs to supplement them and received only minimal support to attend national championships. The umpires’ request for an increase to $15 for plate umpiring of A and A Reserve grades for the 1986-87 season was a 300% increase which was rejected. Instead, the Management Committee voted to pay $7:50.


For the 1989-90 season the WASA proposed a set of fees for both the Winter and Summer competitions respectively based on a sliding scale whereby Super League and A Grade plate umpires would be paid $20 per game; Division 1 and A Reserve $15 and Division 2 and A2 Grade $13. No payment was to be made for junior grades in order to foster young players. As well financial assistance was available to send one umpire to each national championship held interstate. Base umpiring remained with the players except for finals which were covered by accredited umpires. Like players, umpires were not available for matches in which any club or player was not registered with the WASA and ASF. This particularly affected the North West Championships.


Australian and InternationalUmpires

When the WAWSA undertook to host the national championships in March 1952 five baseball-softball males volunteered for umpiring duties: Max Herring, Charlie Puckett, Bill Wells, Arthur Sladden and Colin Woodrow. Val Johnson passed her Australian theory examination in 1954 and her practical in Adelaide in 1956 becoming WA’s first Australian umpire. She was awarded Badge Number 17. When the national championships were held in Perth in 1957 Pam Jackson became WA’s second Australian umpire and was awarded AA Badge Number 20. During the 1960s WA (and Tasmania) was unable to supply umpires for national championships and was levied $40 by the ASF. This went towards the financial assistance paid to umpires traveling interstate. During the Girls’ Under 16 championship in 1974 heavy demands were made on a small group of people like WA’s Coach Don Leyland, Assistant Coach Joyce Jones and Manageress Joy Marsland who were also rostered to umpire and attend lectures given by Dwyer. Val Johnson hosted Dwyer but was unable to influence her opinion of the standard of umpiring in WA. After attending the National Senior Championship in Melbourne in March 1974, Pat Tatham felt justified in defending WA umpires as the standard of umpiring she had seen was most disappointing stating that ‘we feel that we are not too bad at all’.  Johnson again tried to lead by example and in 1976 umpired in all three matches of the Test Series against Canada in Adelaide. In 1979 she was certified with the ISF in preparation for the 1980 Mini World Series in Brisbane and awarded Badge Number 88 thus becoming the first Western Australian to do so.


While numbers undertaking State examinations steadily increased, especially from affiliates, fewer West Australians persisted to national and international levels. Maree Marland received Australian Badge Number 63 in Melbourne in 1981, 24 years after Pam Jackson. Marland passed on her first attempt at the practical examination. Her success was remarkable because she lived and worked in Port Hedland. Her devotion to softball was exemplary as she fostered the sport in the North West with a special focus on umpires. She overcame the tyranny of distance to attend State and national championships and developed an outstanding reputation amongst Australian umpires. Next to qualify were David Marsh (Badge Number 69) and Liz Tully (Badge Number 71) who were both awarded their badges in 1984. The system of grading umpires changed in 1986. Thus of the 74 badges awarded till then WA had only five. Like Marland, Marsh and Tully were country based: Marsh in Kalgoorlie and Tully in Wyndham.8 While it is to their credit that they were able to reach this standard without direct support from the Perth-based WASA, they were not able to provide input into the development of umpires in the metropolitan area or indeed other country affiliates. Marland did not rest on her laurels and was appointed umpire to accompany the Australian Under 25 team touring the American west coast in 1984. She attained Australian Level 7 accreditation. In January 1985 she was elected Deputy UIC with Tony Dunn from the ACT but both were overlooked when the Board appointed Koskelainen.


Under the new accreditation system introduced in 1986 Steve Suckling was the first West Australian to earn an Australian badge (Level 6) and second to gain ISF accreditation (Badge Number 515a) in 1989. He participated in the 1990 Umpires’ Tour to Canada and the USA and was well placed as WA’s SDU to educate local umpires through clinics and practical assessments. His practical skills earned him a plate umpire’s job during the Under 19 Women’s World Championship in Adelaide in April 1991 followed by appointments to the umpires’ ranks for the Fourth World Under 19 Men’s Championship in New Zealand in 1993 and South Pacific Classic in Sydney in 1994. While WA ranked third in player registrations, it fell well short of the other States with its number of accredited umpires. In the early 1990s WA had just 50 accredited umpires compared with over 200 in Victoria. In January 1994 the second Elite Umpires’ Development Clinic was held. Peter Baker and Lynne Caudle were among the eight potential international umpires selected to attend. Baker also went on to the umpire at the South Pacific Classic. Then followed Mike Ericson (1991), Lynne Caudle (1992), Peter Baker (1993), Julie Richardson (1997), Peter Richardson (1997), Warren Duff (2005) and Betty Maass (2005). Duff was WA’s only active international umpire in 2009.


Organisation and representation of umpires

The umpires’ interest in softball differs from that of the players and coaches. There have been numerous attempts by umpires to have their own organization to focus on the rules of the game, the mechanics of implementing them and the examinations. Their organizations in turn have sought to be represented in the governance of the sport at State level and over time have also become accountable to the National Director of Umpiring. 



Life Member: 2009

…umpiring this game is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, absolutely, and I’ve been a sportsman all my life.


West Pilbara Association



State Umpire: 1986-present

Umpire Trainer & Examiner: 1988-present

State Umpiring Committee: 1988-1993

State Director of Umpiring: 1993-1996; 2010-

Board Member: 1994-1996

State Softball League Operations Manager: 1991-2000


Level 5 Umpire: 1992

Level 6 Umpire: 1993

Elite Umpires’ Squad: 1994, 1997

Accredited Lecturer: 1997-present


Australian Softball Federation Service Award: 2003

Peter and his family moved from Sydney to Dampier in 1970 when Peter secured employment as a diesel fitter working on locomotives in the mining industry. His daughter began playing softball with her school and Peter went to watch her. Within 12 months he was playing and coaching. In his own words he was ‘the coach from Hell. I used to give the umpires stick and really the only reason I was doing this was that I didn’t understand the rules’. In 1984 Peter relocated to Perth and since he was living in Wanneroo joined the local club as a player and A2 women’s coach. He seized the opportunity to learn more about the rules and attained his Level 1 umpiring accreditation. After he gained Level 2 in 1986 Peter decided that he was not going to play anymore, instead he concentrated on umpiring. The accreditation system changed during 1986 and Peter’s Level 2 was upgraded to Level 3. He followed up with Level 4 in 1987 which earned at the Northwest Championships held in Karratha. Level 4 qualified him to be a State Umpire and ‘that gave me the right to go out and have a crack at nationals’. Level 5 is a national accreditation. It took Peter, like many aspiring umpires, several attempts to achieve it. He qualified for Level 6 in 1993. ‘It’s very disciplined at national level … you’ve got to have the [theory] exam results and you’ve got to be performing by doing the work’. Umpires participating in national championships have their airfares and accommodation subsidized but have to make up any shortfalls. Levels 7 and 8 qualify umpires for international matches but for umpires in Western Australia this is a costly and time consuming because the WASA hosts very few international matches. To achieve Levels 7 and 8 requires frequent travel to the eastern States which must be paid for by the umpire. That is an expense beyond the budget of people with young families.

Peter was driven by the desire to umpire at national level. ‘I wanted to do the nationals. I wanted to be the best umpire I could be. The only way I could do that was to go and see what everyone else was doing around the country’. Peter’s desire to be the best he could be was acknowledged when he was among the 10 umpires invited to join the Elite Squad in 1994. He attended an intensive training clinic in Sydney prior to the 1994 South Pacific Classic at which he umpired. His commitment was also demonstrated in his performance on the annual theoretical examination in which he consistently attained marks in 90s and was often amongst the top three nationally. He accompanied the Australian senior men’s team on its New Zealand tour in 1996 and umpired in the Test Series.  For Peter umpiring requires discipline and:

you’ve got to learn. It’s like a dance. You’ve got to learn to work with two or three other people and you’ve all got to move in the right direction and if you don’t you’ll be in the wrong place and then comes the fun! … at the top level they’re all pulling for the same reason, they want to play with the best and so they work together and they learn together and they argue together about what they’ve done during a game … You could spend an hour after the game with your fellow umpires arguing about what happened during a game and that’s good stuff. It helps you and it helps them. Every game is unique and the umpires must be alert at all times.

To umpire at national championships, umpires must be endorsed by their State association and complete a minimum number of matches with the highest grades available. For Peter this was straightforward since he willingly umpired men’s (Winter) and women’s Summer) matches plus State Championships and State League when it was inaugurated in 1991. At its peak State League with 22 teams playing home and away matches had almost 1,000 umpires’ slots to be filled per season. Most umpires covered two matches per night, one as a base umpire and the other as the plate umpire ‘Well, after you did two games you were wrecked. That’s about as much as you can do in one session ‘cos your concentration levels at that level is high-pressure stuff’. Time wise umpires had to set aside six hours per competition day for their duties. Peter was Operations Manager for the State League until 2000 and covered the finals since its inception and changes. During the WASA’s Operation Review Peter was its representative on the State League Committee which was asked to investigate ways of improving the League.  Peter believed that WA’s strength in men’s softball in the 1980s and ‘90s equipped him to cope with men’s national championships better than some other umpires because we were umpiring these guys that were playing for Australia and we didn’t have that jump. It’s a different type of game – men and women’. Umpires earn the respect of the players by being able to handle the pressure and make the right decisions. If they do make a wrong call, umpires must be able to admit it and fix it.


In recent years Peter focused on tournaments held in Perth with interstate trips confined to Australian and World Masters events.  As well as umpiring matches Peter moved into the other jobs performed by umpires including Tournament Chief Umpires and Examiner at both State Championships and national championships. Depending upon the number of umpires and candidates for accreditation, examiners may either be umpiring on the diamond alongside the candidate or sitting on the sidelines completing a substantial amount of paper work. One of the highlights of his career was participating in a clinic for Aboriginals held out in the Gibson Dessert. Peter joined the State Umpiring Committee and served on its administration from 1988 to 1993. He served as State Training Officer which included the organization of courses across the State and the inspection of grounds. He became State Director of Umpiring (SDU) until 1996. As SDU Peter automatically became a member of the Board of the WASA and held the portfolio for Technical Development which oversaw umpires, coaches, scorers and development. His preference, however, was to be actively training and teaching aspiring umpires. From being a diesel fitter working on locomotives Peter progressed to Supervisor and then Superintendent in the workshops. He was seconded to Perth to work for the contractor building the locomotives. Having experienced these managerial roles Peter opted to run his own business first in taxi trucks and then furniture delivery. As his own boss he was able to schedule his work so he could attend to his softball commitments. Of his three children only his youngest son, Stewart, has persisted with softball. After trying his hand at umpiring Stewart opted to continue as a player.


Frank Silva was appointed Official Umpire of the WA SoftbalAssociation (Women’s Section) for the 1948-49 season. He was a member of the Executive and umpired most matches excluding those in which his club Wembley played. The position of Official Umpire was discontinued when the Constitution was formally drawn up in 1950. It was replaced by the Umpires’ Board.  During the 1950s Val Johnson attempted to recruit more umpires but with little success. After she left Perth the situation deteriorated but was partially rectified during Sister Wheatley’s brief tenure as President. In the 1963-64 season she established of an Umpires’ Association for which she was also president. By the 1968-69 season the umpires were well organized under the umbrella of the Umpires and Scorers Association with Pat Tatham leading it. While Scorers were included in the title scant attention was paid to them probably because anyone could become a scorer without the need to pass any examinations. Rarely was the full title of the association used, it was simply the Umpires’ Association. By December 1968 it was affiliated with the WAWSA whose constitution it used until its own was finalized. This assertive approach began to pay off as it became a more structured and visible contributor to the WAWSA. Meetings were held regularly and two delegates attended WAWSA Council meetings. The Umpires’ Association took full responsibility for the conduct of the State and Australian theoretical and practical umpires’ examinations. In January  1969 the association announced that its next meeting would be on 3 February at the WACA. It was to be an examination and at each ‘CLUB MUST BE’ represented (Emphasis in original). For those undertaking the examinations, umpiring was usually in addition to all their other responsibilities in softball at club and State level. Most State officials undertook umpire accreditation.


Don Leyland had a brief stint as Convenor of the Umpires’ Association then Pat Tatham resumed the helm for the 1973-74 season. The overlap between the State and national accreditation was highlighted in October 1973 when it was pointed out that those listed in the Annual Report as Grade 1 were in fact Grade 2 (lower) according to the ASF because they sat the State rather than Australian theory paper.  WA’s poor performance on the theory papers was reported by UIC Dwyer and was probably symptomatic of the tension underpinning all umpiring in WA. The WA Umpires’ Board endeavoured to remedy the situation. Umpires were requested attend the trials for the Senior State team to umpire matches and to be coached. The Umpires’ Board also had to contend with coaches abusing umpires especially in the junior grades, the coaches seeming to ignore the fact that the umpires were players.  The umpires’ ranks were revitalised when Val Johnson returned to Perth and offered her service as an umpire and lecturer. She nominated to chair the Umpires’ Division. As always, leading by example, she undertook the Australian theory examination each year and achieved results in the high 90s. Pam Heron (nee Jackson) undertook the refresher examination to join Johnson as WA’s active Australian umpires and the pair were eligible to umpire at national championships in 1975, ’76 and ‘77. Johnson’s attention to detail was also evident in her comprehensive reports included in the WASA Annual Report. The powers of the Umpires’ Division were clarified and they were allowed to: (a) arrange country visits by umpires; (b) sell rule books, score books and interpretations; (c) allocate umpires; (d) decide if an umpire was a suitable candidate for examination; and (e) handle Fairest and Best cards for A and A Reserve grades. Selling rule books and score books helped to generate funds to assist umpires travel to the country and interstate.


A further name change saw the Umpires’ Division become the Umpires’ Associate Association. It served as a conduit between softball in WA and national level ensuring that new rules and interpretations were followed in WA although there was a reluctance with some rules which were deemed too complex for the lower grades such as designated hitter and re-entry. One of the long-standing traditions of the sport was phased out in the 1979-80 season beginning with A and A Reserve grades. No longer did the teams line up on the bases and run to greet each other at the pitchers’ plate before the match began. Instead each team had a five minute warm-up on the diamond after which the captains and coaches met with the umpires for the clarification of ground rules and the toss of the coin to decide which

team batted first. Despite the resurgence of the organization of umpires, the same issues arose season after season: lack of attendance by clubs at meetings; abuse of umpires; low numbers sitting examinations and few passing; and, failure of rostered club members to fulfill their umpiring duties.


John Davidse replaced Tom Corcoran as Convenor of the umpires midway during the 1984-85 season but Davidse and the Secretary of the Umpires’ Associate Association resigned in February 1985. David Marsh, who had relocated to Perth, and Joanne Dumaresq were appointed to the respective roles to hold office until the AGM in June. They stepped into the breach at the same time the WASA received a telegram from the ASF advising that Marj Dwyer had been removed from office. No details were provided.  Marsh had a hectic schedule with 18 candidates presenting for examination at the State Championships in March 1985. He rostered accredited umpires with candidates and oversaw the examination panel of eight: himself, Marland, Tully, Joanne Dumaresq, Albert Dumaresq, Val Johnson, Tom Corcoran and Roy Graham. Following the championships he recommended that metropolitan candidates for Grade 2 and 3 badges be examined during the regular season so that the focus at the championships could be on country candidates and those presenting for their State badge. As well, Marsh urged the WASA to protest against the dismissal of Dwyer and seek her re-instatement. The WASA sought legal advice regarding the clauses of the constitution the ASF had used to justify its actions and supported moves by NSW to have a Special Meeting before the Annual Council Meeting in October. The ASF Board’s actions were ratified. 


Further confusion arose when Dale Districts Men’s Softball Association appointed an Umpires’ Coordinator – Roy Cox – in what appeared to be direct conflict with the WASA’s recognition of Marsh and Marland. Marsh and Joanne Dumaresq attended the annual umpires’ seminar in Melbourne in mid-1985. Marsh nominated Bunbury as the site of an ASF-funded country clinic on the basis that he believed that there was still a substantial need in the area despite the visit of Dwyer prior to her dismissal. The umpiring clinic was to be in conjunction with a coaching clinic and the WASA had nominated the Goldfields for that. For the 1985-86 season Marsh was elected Convenor, Bill Schravesande Secretary and Joanne Dumaresq Treasurer. Marsh also raised questions about WASA support for umpires and candidates wishing to attend national championships since WA now had more people available than ever before but felt hampered by the WASA’s funding of just one umpire per championship. It was suggested that the Umpires’ Association should raise funds to supplement those wishing to attend national championships. Marsh later clarified his report to explain that WA should consider funding two umpires per championship to cope with the growing numbers seeking full accreditation and WA’s need for quality umpires. However, after attending the first national meeting of State/Territory Directors of Umpiring called by the Acting UIC, Koskalainen, in August 1985 Marsh was strongly opposed to the proposed changes to the accreditation scheme. Marsh subsequently withdrew from softball. Joanne Dumaresq picked up the reins and oversaw the country clinic which was held in Harvey since Bunbury did not follow-up on its nomination by Marsh.


Under Dumaresq’s leadership the umpires coped with the changes introduced at national level. In particular WA had to adopt the new three-umpire rotation system quickly when the 1986 Senior Men’s national championships were held in Perth. The new accreditation system introduced by Koskalainen was supported by a clinic for Level 1 and 2 umpires in Adelaide. Peter Baker, Roy Cox and Norma Avery (Geraldton) attended.  One of the ongoing challenges for the WASA was the fact that the State’s most highly qualified umpire, Marland, was based in Port Hedland which severely limited her availability for clinics and umpiring club matches. President Reg Page was forced to declare that the Umpiring Convenor had to be based in the metropolitan area but he was happy to concede that the person had to be a good administrator regardless of umpiring qualifications. Marland had the WASA’s support to conduct practical examinations during the annual North West Championships.


Life Member: 2010

…over the last 30 years softball has been my whole life apart from work, of course, and the family.




Level 4 Umpire

Umpire club, State Championships, National Championships, State Softball League,

Vets Softball

State Championships Convenor & TCU: 19780-82


Girrawheen/Koondoola Community Recreation Association

Merit Award: 1986

Australian Softball Federation Service Award: 1994

Australian Sports Medal: 2000

Department of Sport & Recreation

Certificate of Commendation: 2001


As part of the revision of the WASA Constitution in 1987 the umpires came back under its direct control as the Umpires’ Division with one representative, the State Director of Umpiring, on the Management Committee. BillAlbert began umpiring softball over 35 years ago when his daughters began playing at Blackmore Primary School (Blackmore PS). He can, however, trace his association with the sport back to pre-World War II when his father played for Central Athletics in Guernsey, one of the small Channel Island nations. A Canadian businessman introduced softball to Guernsey in the late 1930s and it was played by men for over 60 years. Albert did not follow in his father’s footsteps, indeed he only ever played one game and didn’t particularly like it, preferring to play and referee soccer. Now he is a staunch fan of Perth Glory. Albert joined the Royal Navy in 1946 and in 1951 made his home in England. During one of his tours of duty he met his wife-to-be, Pat, in Bermuda, where her father, also a navy man, was stationed. In 1967 the Dumaresq family migrated to Australia. They spent a short period of time in Manjimup when Albert worked in the mill, followed by six months in Gnoweranup where Albert was the government Vermin Control Officer. The family was amongst the first to settle in the new suburb of Girrawheen in 1971. Albert and Pat’s four daughters attended Blackmore PS. Pat volunteered to help in the school office which eventually led to a full-time position in administration. A former member of the Nollamara Softball Club, Maureen Forsythe, came to Blackmore PS and introduced softball. The Dumaresq girls became players with the original Girrawheeen Softball Club for the 1975-76 season. Albert helped out as a coach and during the 1970s and ‘80s he coached the junior teams to two premierships. Pat became a scorer. Albert also coached two boys’ teams in the WA Men’s Softball League.


When Girrawheen had to supply an umpire Albert stepped forward. Very quickly he found himself undertaking the theory and practical examinations to become a qualified umpire. Albert considers himself fortunate to have had Val Johnson as a mentor. He achieved ASF Level 4. Technically, this allowed Albert to umpire matches club level and the State Championships. However, he was accepted to umpire at the Under 16 national championships in Adelaide in 1980 and Perth in 1981. In Adelaide he also helped out at a sub-junior carnival. He umpired at the Under 19 national championships in Canberra in 1981. When the Zimbabwean softball team visited Perth en route to the World Championships in New Zealand in 1986 Albert umpired matches played against WA teams. In 1997 he umpired at the tournament in which the Indonesian Men’s team played. During a holiday to Guernsey in 1998 Albert umpired matches in the local men’s competition thus reconnecting with his softball roots. Keen to be constantly involved with softball, Albert convened the umpires for the WA Men’s Softball League. One of the highlights of his career was to umpire at the inaugural Senior Men’s national championship in Sydney in 1984 and followed up at the 1986 championships in Perth. This background proved advantageous and Albert was able to fulfill the duties of Liaison Officer for the umpires at several national championships held in Perth including the Under 19 Women’s in 1987 and again in 1995.


With a strong conviction that the future of softball lay in the development of juniors Albert worked tirelessly in both the Summer and Winter competitions, the Independent Girls’ Schools Sports Association and competitions at the University of Western Australia. He achieved a unique place in WA softball history when he was the first plate umpire to oversee matches at the State Softball Centre at Mirrabooka in 1991 when he umpired at the Australian Secondary School Championships.Albert umpired in the State Softball League during the early 1990s.  When the WASA hosted the softball component of the 1993 Australian Masters Games at Yokine, Albert along with many others was drawn into Vets softball. From 1994 to 1996 he was the Tournament Chief Umpire (TCU) for the competition played at Mirrabooka each Tuesday evening during summer. As recently as 2009 he umpired at the Masters Games in Sydney, an outstanding feat for an 80 year old. During the 1990s Albert gained extensive experience as TCU with the Summer Competition at Yokine and the Junior Division of the State Championships. The latter competition was particularly important to Albert since he had introduced the Junior Division when he was Convenor and TCU from 1978 to 1981. With up to 38 teams playing over 130 matches during the long weekend in March, Albert spent a considerable time organising the fixtures, the diamonds and the umpires with Pat attending to the canteen. The Girrawheen Softball Club gave strong support to Albert.


Albert appreciated the need for education for umpires and he was ever ready to conduct clinics. During the 1980s he traveled extensively throughout southern WA conducting clinics which were often held in conjunction with the finals of the local competition which he umpired. As well, Girrawheen Softball Club participated in numerous country tournaments. The Dumaresq family was well equipped with a caravanette for overnight accommodation and a station wagon for bags of softball equipment.  Albert was also willing to help with some of the less glamorous tasks. From 1993 to 1997 and then again from 2002 to 2005 he served as scrutineer for the umpires theory examination held annually on the last Monday in May. He had to negotiate with WA clubs to determine the number of papers to be sourced from the ASF, supervise the examinations held at Yokine and later Mirrabooka, and then forward them to the markers in WA and with the ASF. In addition to his commitment to the WASA, Albert also umpired at the World Firemen’s Championships held at Mirrabooka. More recently in 2008 he organized and supplied umpires for an Aboriginal carnival.


Away from the diamond, Albert was President of the Girrawheen Softball Club during the late 1970s. Pat was Secretary. Albert’s involvement in club management extended to being the Girrawheen delegate to WASA Management Committee meetings.  Like so many of the softball community Albert – and Pat - have assisted with the maintenance of Mirrabooka, specifically cleaning the function hall on a weekly basis with an extra effort to clean carpets and windows prior to the WASA hosting national championships. For this they received a small honorarium. Albert has also been gateman.  Albert and Pat’s involvement in softball continued much longer than their daughters. Joanne followed in her father’s footsteps and became an umpire while Elizabeth maintains her interest in the Vets competition. Valerie’s participation came to an abrupt end when she broke her leg sliding into third. Janet played and coached in Albany for a short time. As yet, the grandchildren have not shown the same interest. Albert worked at a variety of jobs finishing up as a salesman in the heating department of MJ Bateman prior to his retirement.  For his softball efforts Albert has received a number of awards from the Girrawheen/Koondola Recreation Association and the Department of Sport and Recreation. His most cherished awards are his ASF Service Award in 1994, an Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and his WASA Life Membership in 2010.  Albert completed his 35 years of softball umpiring in ‘March 2011 at the age of 82 years. No more. I’m happy with everything I’ve done. I never found it too much’.


Schravesande took on the job of Director. He had a small pool of 8 qualified umpires and 13 in training. For the 1987-88 season the umpires held training sessions each Monday evening. Again the umpires were becoming more organized. The appointment in March 1988 of Marland as State Rules Interpreter and George Innes as State Training Co-ordinator clearly demonstrated this. Steve Suckling had one two-year term as Director of Umpiring in WA from 1989 to 1991 and shared the knowledge he had gained during the 1990 Umpires’ Tour to Canada and the USA. Stacey Graham succeeded Suckling. She set about revamping the State Umpires’ Committee by including Regional Training Officers from the Affiliated Associations. She also took the unprecedented step of volunteering to convene the Men’s Trans-Tasman Series held in conjunction with the opening of the State Softball Centre at Mirrabooka in September 1991. She justified her decision on the basis that: ‘(1) there was a need for a committee to operate in a professional and high public relations manner for the ASF co-ordinated Series; and (2) there had been a distinct breakdown in liaison with and between WASA and many WA umpires’. She believed her actions reduced the time needed to re-build a close relationship with the Board members and resulted in a successful Series. Graham also took on the role of liaison with the Women’s Sports Foundation of WA.


Graham made a gallant effort to guide the softball community towards understanding the organization of umpiring during her second year in office. As SDU she oversaw the State Umpires Committee made up of the SDU, State Training Officer, State Publications Officer and all umpires within WA. Regional Training Officers and the State Umpires Secretary were co-opted to the committee. The principal duties of the Committee were to rosterumpires for State League matches and train umpires throughout WA. The Committee answered directly to WASA and was represented on the Board of Management by the SDU. The WA Softball Umpires’ Association (WASUA) was an incorporated individual member association open to all who paid the relevant fee. It negotiated on a contractual basis with the WASA for umpires for the Summer and Winter competitions. As well there was the North West Umpires’ Association and some other smaller associations or panels which were similar to the WASUA with or without a Director of Umpiring and a committee. Often they existed within the regulations and by-laws of affiliated associations.9 The WASUA also had responsibility for the theory examinations.


The volume of work undertaken by the SDU was a shock to Julie Richardson when she became SDU in November 1993. Six senior umpires joined her on the State Umpires Committee to share the load of club matches, national championships, country finals and State Championships. A highlight of the season was the Michael Bolton Charity Softball match held at Parry Field (baseball) in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000. Richardson had the privilege of presenting Bolton, a world-renowned singer, with a WASA cap and tee shirt. Determining the exact number of umpires in WA proved a challenge as the records had not been regularly updated but by February 1994 Richardson had managed to list 183. However, few umpires were full-time and the actual number available for State League declined to the point where the SDU was only able to provide umpires at Mirrabooka. Training umpires required access to Mirrabooka for both meeting rooms and the diamonds, however, Richardson was often frustrated that the umpires did not receive the same consideration as players and coaches resulting in an official letter to the Board in June 1995. Richardson perceived the efforts of herself and other umpires were not supported by the President of the WASA and in a strongly worded letter in August 1996 sort clarification and a reversal of the attitude that she considered was stifling umpire recruitment. When this failed to resolve the situation, the State Umpires Committee sought a meeting with the President and again delays were experienced. A meeting of President, Vice President and SDU was held. Julie Richardson was the longest serving Director of Umpiring.


In early 2001 the WASUA sought to become an Associate Association of the WASA. The Board decided that it would only accept the WASUA if it agreed to change its name which it considered was:

confusing and conflicting, implying that the Western Australian Umpires Association was the controlling body of umpires in Western Australia when in fact the Western Australian Softball Association is the Head Body with the Director of Umpiring being the overseer of Umpires throughout the State.

The WASA had the support of the National Director of Umpiring who held similar views. Proposed alternatives were the Metropolitan Umpires Association or the Perth Umpires Association. The North West Umpires Association had overcome a similar problem by registering as an Associate Association. SEDSUA registered through SEMSA. The report of a meeting between the WASA Executive and members of WASUA indicates that the discussion tended to drift away from the main topic and rambled over many issues to do with umpiring retrospectively indicating that communication between umpires and the WASA was strained. The crux of the matter seemed to be the need for umpires to have a body other than a club dominated by players with which to register. The State Umpires’ Board (SUB) was established for the 2001-02 season with Warren Duff as State Director, Peter Richardson as Training Co-ordinator and Rob Harries as Rules Interpreter. SUB was responsible for recruiting and training umpires to ASF standards. The umpires’ own association was known as Azul which is Spanish for blue following a suggestion from a member whose family had Spanish origins. Betty Maas served as its president.


The communication problems had resulted from a division in the umpiring fraternity between WASUA (and its various heirs) and State Umpiring Committee and the umpires had lost direct representation on the Board after the WASA Constitution was revised in 2000. Umpiring came under the portfolio of Technical Development along with scoring, coaching and development. In one sense umpiring was fortunate because one of its own, Peter Baker, was the Board member for Technical Development. Julie Richardson addressed a Board of Management Meeting in March 2001 to express her concerns about the direction umpiring was taking in WA and the lack of apparent concern for protocol for including WA umpires in preparation for national championships. Richardson was a member of WASUA but not of the WASA. A workshop facilitated by a representative from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation was proposed to resolve the problems with the WASUA and the State Umpiring Committee.  More recently the separate umpires’ organization has declined and the workload falls on the SDU. Umpiring in WA has not been supported on a level comparable to other States. Indeed there is an undercurrent of mistrust and dislike which has resulted in a “them” and “us” mentality which the office bearers of the WASA have done little to dispel.


[i]Embrey, L. (1995). Batter Up! The history of softball in Australia. p. 38.

[i]AWSC Minutes, March 1954.

[i]Val Johnston. Interview, September 1991.

[i]Softball Australia – Accreditation (22 July 2010).

[i]Koskelainen, Margo. (2001). A strong female umpire program – Blue print for success. A presentation at the Blues Convention, Fredericton, USA?.

[i]See 4 above.

[i]Department of Sport and Recreation. (22 July 2010). Green Shirt Program.

[i]Softball Umpire Gets Badge. The West Australian, Friday 20 January 1984, p. 58.

[i]Graham, Stacey P. (1993). State Director of Umpiring Report 1992/93. WASA Annual Report 1992-93.