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Final siren sounds on tribunal chief

Friday, 20th March, 2020

Robin Edgecumbe: “I’m leaving town and taking the footy with me.” PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt Robin Edgecumbe: “I’m leaving town and taking the footy with me.” PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

By Craig Brealey

All football tribunals have to deal with testy players but few outside of Broken Hill would have had one bring a cloven-hoofed animal to a hearing to make a point.

Robin Edgecumbe, the long-serving chairman of the Broken Hill Football League Tribunal, presided on this case and its memory is one of many the man nicknamed “The Hanging Judge” cherishes.

Mr Edgecumbe served on the tribunal for more than 35 years and now on the eve of leaving the city he recalled some “hair-raising and hilarious” hearings at League Headquarters - Jubilee Oval.

It was a South player, he said, that turned up with a goat and said it knew more about footy than the umpire who had booked him.

Some of the club delegates that defended the players were so sharp that they could have been barristers, he said.

“There were many characters amongst the defence brigade, some of whom missed their calling and should have been performing in the Supreme Court.

“North Football Club delegate, David Schmidt, was a standout. I believe it was Dave who first referred to me as ‘The Hanging Judge’ after we suspended Mark Johnston.

“Some of the delegates were eloquent and clever, but Dave was at the top of the tree.”

The nickname stuck but there was no ill will and occasions such as that were happy memories, said Mr Edgecumbe.

“In general, most hearings were civilised and I occasionally run into some the defendant ‘regulars’ and we have a laugh about old times,” he said.

Mr Edgecumbe, a former mine staffer and IT business owner, is moving to Clare at the end of the month and tonight the BHAFL will hold a farewell dinner for him.

His involvement in football began as a player and in 1960 his South Colts went through the season undefeated. He went on the play thirds for South and moved to North in 1963.

“Later I was recruited by Lionel Johnston for the position of Assistant Secretary of the BH Football Association which represented all grades except League.” 

Mr Johnston, the secretary, also got him to become a goal umpire, he said, until he went bookmaking at the horse races.

“I got into the bookmaking world for several years, and as racing was every Saturday afternoon, my goal umpiring career was over.

“Lionel Johnston (there is his name again) saw that I had no job to do for BHFL so he asked me to sign on as a League Commissioner which I did. What a crew!- “The others were Hutchy Adams, Gordon Langbine, Nugget Byers, Alby Straughan - these are a few of the names that come to mind.” 

Mr Edgecumbe said he soon found out that it was not only the players and supporters who celebrated after a game and beyond.

“The hearings were held on Sunday evening, but the time was changed to Sunday morning as it was too difficult to get everyone to turn up sober on Sunday evening. 

“The meeting Chair was the last Commissioner to turn up.”   

Later Mr Johnston and Sam Minnis, who Mr Edgecumbe said might have been  Chairman of North at the time, asked him to nominate for the position of Permanent Chair of League Commissioners, and he accepted. 

“Sam, many times, told me what a poor judge of character he was, as shortly after my appointment we suspended his son, Stephen, much to Sam’s disgust.”

This was the only time the North champ was reported in his 300-plus games, he said. 

Mr Edgecumbe said the South goat incident was one of many memorable events.

“There were some hair-raising and hilarious episodes at hearings,” he said.

“At one the reporting umpire suggested that the reported player, Brian Bearman of North who had pleaded not guilty to a striking charge, give up football and become a professional boxer!”

In the 1970s when the clubs started to import big-name players “from away” the tribunal hearings were often dynamic and always interesting, said Mr Edgecumbe.

“Memorables include George Hill, Daryl Dunlop, Gary Jones, Geoff Potter, Ray Giblett ...”

But hope of peaceful retirement for Mr Edgecumbe away from the footy scene appear to have been dashed already. 

“I understand that one of my recently acquired family members, who plays for the Roosters in Clare, is already plotting to recruit me for a position in his club or in their League.”

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