John Knowles has retired after 7o years of goal umpiring with the NTFA and Perth Magpies

OVER AND OUT: Goal umpire John Knowles has retired and hung up the flags after 70 years of goal umpiring in Tasmania, including 50 years with Perth and 20 with the NTFA. Picture: Adam Daunt
OVER AND OUT: Goal umpire John Knowles has retired and hung up the flags after 70 years of goal umpiring in Tasmania, including 50 years with Perth and 20 with the NTFA. Picture: Adam Daunt

After 70 years standing between the sticks in rain, hail or shine, goal umpire John Knowles has hung up the flags and the umpires coat for good.

Mr Knowles has umpired for seven decades, including 50 years with Perth Magpies Football Club and 20 years with the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NFTA), but decided to call it quits last season.

He started his football journey in Westbury in Tasmania's central north, as a player, chasing the leather ball around with his brothers and mates.

Quickly, he traded in the playing side of the caper for arguably the best seat in the house, on the goal line as a goal umpire for Westbury and then the Perth Magpies Football Club, based south of Launceston, in Tasmania.

"I played junior football but I didn't like it much so I decided to goal umpiring ... I wanted to be involved in [football] and things just escalated from there," he said.

"I umpired in the Esk association, in the district league and the Deloraine association then I moved onto the NTFA and then I was living down the West Tamar, I used to travel from West Tamar to Perth to goal umpire."

On a rough estimate, Mr Knowles would have umpired more than a thousand games of football, witnessing the highs of premiership success and the some crushing defeats along the way.

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Mr Knowles decided to hang up the flags at the end of the 2020 season after an unfortunate incident which saw a opposition player knock him over and left him in hospital with concussion.

"I retired in goal umpiring in 2020 because my last game at Perth, a Bridport fullback ran through me and knocked me over which started an all in brawl," he said.

"I wasn't feeling too good, so I just packed everything up and took myself to the [Launceston General Hospital] and they kept me over night with concussion."

Mr Knowles feels that incident put a sour note to his umpiring career which left him feeling shaken and without any confidence to perform his role as a goal umpire.

"I just didn't have any confidence then because [the collision] is the first time [being knocked over] has ever happened in 70 years of umpiring," he said.

"I just thought if that's goal umpiring then I am not going back.

"I've never been back."

Despite the incident putting a dampener on his association with Perth Magpies and the NTFA, Mr Knowles said he will always look back fondly on the premierships.

"The premierships [stand out] plus I love the sport and you can't get any closer to watch football than in the goal square," he said.

"I just loved it, you meet a lot of people and a lot of my nephews played with Perth, I just loved goal umpiring and the friendships you are with the club for 50 years."

This story Footy legend blows the whistle on 70 years of umpiring first appeared on The Examiner.