By Sam Saracino
AS you walk into the change rooms of the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires, you’ll notice the sign above the door reads, ‘The Tom O’Halloran Room.’ Once inside, you’ll see there is Tom’s umpire shirt, framed and hanging on the wall and next to the shirt is a photo of Tom O’Halloran. Quite simply, he is a legend of the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires and is held in the highest esteem by everyone who has had the privilege to meet him.
He joined umpiring ranks of football in 1970, immediately after playing senior football at Lemnos Football Club. His football playing career came to an end in 1969 after suffering a serious knee injury. He had played 110 senior games with Lemnos and was always modest when speaking about his ability as a footballer. He has been described by others as a hardworking and determined player who ran strongly from the half back flank. Tom was always humble about his own achievements but, when being judged by others, he won the Lemnos Football Club senior team’s best and fairest award in 1962. What a fantastic achievement.
By the time Tom joined the Umpires’ Association, he had already established a wonderful resume of achievement with other sporting organisations in the Shepparton area. He played cricket for Shepparton Youth Club Cricket Club and helped the team win the A grade premiership in 1963-64. He was proud of the fact that he captained the B grade team to the premiership in the 1966-67 season. After his cricket playing career ended because of an ankle injury, Tom followed a familiar theme and went straight into umpiring cricket. In 1982 he was awarded the Jack Edwards Award after serving as an administrator with both cricket and football umpring. This award was initiated by the Shepparton Sportmens’ Club 25 years earlier. Tom was a worthy winner of this award, which highlighted his service to football and cricket as a player, administrator and umpire.
As a football umpire, he was highly regarded by his fellow umpires, and was particularly respected by the players. Tom always had an affinity with the players and always looked after the ball player or the little bloke at the bottom of the pack. He loved all aspects of umpiring and made history when he was appointed as one of the boundary umpires in the first all local panel to be used in a Goulburn Valley Football League match in March, 1980. Tom umpired the bulk of his matches as a central umpire and he didn’t care what age group or what league he was umpiring, he took great joy in being out on the ground and seeing young blokes having a game of footy.
Tom had three operations on his broken leg after he tripped while umpiring a thirds game at Nathalia, but that only kept him from umpiring temporarily. He resumed umpiring as soon as possible as a goal umpire such was his dedication to umpiring. In fact, Tom umpired over 1,400 games for match points in his career. In addition to his exceptional on-field commitment, he served the umpires as a secretary, committeeman, selector, boundary umpires coach, junior coordinator and recruitment officer. In 2010, Tom received a service award from the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) in recognition of his service to umpiring for over 40 years. This must have been one of the easiest awards for the VCFL to ever present as no one had done more in umpiring than Tom O’Halloran.
He was presented with life membership of the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires’ Association in 1979 when he was only 37 years old. You might say this is young to be presented with life membership but others had already recognised the contribution that Tom had made to sport in the Goulburn Valley. He had already received life membership of Shepparton Youth Club Cricket Club in 1966, Shepparton Youth Club in 1967, Lemnos-SYC Junior Football Club in 1968, Lemnos Football Club in 1970 and Shepparton Junior Football League in 1978. Tom has also since achieved life membership with the Shepparton Cricket Association, the Shepparton Cricket Umpires and the Shepparton Runners Club. In total, he was awarded life membership of nine different sporting organisations. This is a truly remarkable achievement and recognition of a lifelong involvement and dedication to sport.
Of particular significance is his generosity and selflessness towards others. Tom’s involvement in administration in many sporting groups ensured that others were able to enjoy the benefits of involvement in sport. He derived a great deal of pride in seeing young people enjoying their sport and I can attest to his dedication to junior football in the local area. If it were possible to calculate all of the people in the Goulburn Valley who have been influenced by his involvement in sport and sports administration over such a long period of time, we’d be talking in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands.
Tom was the first to recognise that a person who dedicates their life to sport, as he did, must have a strong team behind him. He was interviewed for an article in the Weekender a year or two ago and he was asked, who is the greatest influence on your umpiring? Tom replied, “My lovely wife Christine. Without her help I wouldn’t have done one year.”
He had a wonderful career with the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires as a running umpire, coach and administrator. His contribution with the umpires mirrored his wonderful involvement with many other sporting associations in the Shepparton area. Tom knew everyone and everyone enjoyed having a chat with him. He had a great laugh and never had a nasty word for anyone. Tom was one of nature’s gentlemen.