Umpiring veteran Bruce McVee whistles up 50 years in the middle

Headshot of Peter Sweeney
Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
Umpire Bruce McVee.
Camera IconUmpire Bruce McVee. Credit: Peter Sweeney

Bruce McVee has been physically assaulted and abused — and he’s done a bit of abusing.

He has received threats to his face and via the telephone, he’s been dropped and reinstated, and he’s blown the whistle on and off the ground.

But for a man who has run with the Olympic torch and is just a month shy of his 70th birthday, his flame still burns brightly.

The controversial character has just started his 50th year of umpiring football, blowing the whistle in “at a guess” well above 1000 games.

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Mostly, it’s been in his native Geraldton, but when it comes to where he’s been and what he’s seen on the footy field, McVee is an “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything” man.

He’s umpired in Perth — in the WAFL and Sunday League — in Darwin, Tasmania and virtually every country league in WA.

McVee was once told his conduct was unbecoming and was sacked as an umpire.

He has been warned for swearing at players; has been reprimanded for not reporting players; a player was suspended for nearly a year for using threatening language towards him; and a spectator was given life for hitting him after a close match at The Rec, his favourite ground.

That’s where his whistle-blowing career started half a century ago.

“Ah, it’s all part of the business,” McVee reflected when describing his highs and lows.

“I’d do it all again.”

At the peak of his career, McVee was as big a newsmaker as any star player.

Reports, tribunal hearings — once he was told to “tidy up in future” when donning joggers, shorts and a sleeveless footy jumper at a sitting following umpire training — arguments with administration and the public, and protests have all been part of the package.

He’s umpired all around the place, but is happiest when in his birthplace, where he has been an umpires’ coach and adviser.

His marathon innings in the middle of the ground started a year after playing in the seconds for Brigades in the GNFL.

He disputed a decision and was told by umpire Kevin Parsons to “shape up or ship out”.

A year later, he took the advice and became an umpire.

“Best thing I’ve ever done,” McVee said, suggesting his well-used legs may still have a couple of seasons in them.

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