After 2140 games spanning across 62 years and four different football leagues, Jim Ainsworth has decided to hang up the flags once and for all on an umpiring career that included 40 years of service with the EDFL.
The brisk Tuesday morning breeze whips through the stands at Windy Hill, as Jim recounts some of his fondest memories from his long career.
“I’ve had a good innings in the field, boundary and goals” he said.
“I was in the goals more than I was in the field, once I settled into the goal square I enjoyed it. There was plenty of running out there (in the field) compared to the goals, it’s much easier here.”
From a career that began back in 1954 boundary umpiring in the Northern Football League, Jim rose through the ranks establishing himself as charismatic, respected and often very witty umpire.
“(Umpiring) for sport was good, all my mates kept me round they’re a good bunch of blokes.”
“I give them a lot of curry and don’t you worry, I don’t let them get away with anything.”
Amongst his achievements Jim is most proud of the 106 consecutive game streak he umpired with good friend Tommy Ennis.
“We did 106 games straight together in the middle” he said.
“We always ran together on the Saturday morning then would head down to the goal square in the afternoon.”
Plying his craft over the years across the Northern, Metropolitan, Footscray and Essendon District Football Leagues, Jim has had his fair share of strange occurrences from being hit by a car and attacked by a supporting mother post game.
“I was out at Deer Park one day running the boundary, next minute on my bum I went.”
“A bloke had driven through the gate flying in slamming on the brakes and into me.”
That day Jim returned to officiate the last quarter, with the real shock coming after telling his mother what had transpired.
“I remember telling my mum about it, she said “WHAT!?” I said don’t worry about it mum.”
The shock from his mum was nothing compared to the reaction of a supporter after a perceived tight call led to a close loss.
“I’ve had my face smacked before, by a lady spectator.”
“As I was walking off with the two boundary umpires she just came up to me and bang hit me from the side, right across my cheek.”
Jim’s tireless hard work and dedication to local footy and umpiring has seen him be awarded with five different life memberships as recognition for his years of service to the game.
“I am a life member of the Northern (football league) that was the junior competition, the Metropolitan Football League, Broadmeadows Football Club, The EDFL and the Umpires Association.”
“I’ve got them all hanging up (my medals), I have quite a few things, I have tried to hang them up everywhere.”
Whilst stepping away from goal umpiring himself, Jim is still remaining involved with the EDFL umpiring department, through mentoring the new umpires coming through the system.
“I don’t want to leave, I want to stay and help if I can.”
“I love the game, I don’t think I can walk away from it and just sit around at home. My father always told me you’ll never get nothing done if you sit around on your backside.”
Aside from helping out where he can Jim is taking retirement one step at a time.
“I don’t have any plans yet, I’ll find things to do if I want to. I’ll just enjoy watching the footy supporting Essendon.”
But would he ever entertain a comeback as an umpire?
“I don’t think so. I’m 84 now, I’ll be 85 in February, I’m quite happy to sit back and pick crap at them all (the umpires)” he said.