Territory Stories

Sunday Territorian 14 Feb 2016



Sunday Territorian 14 Feb 2016


Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT




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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited

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Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited



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J ACK Ellis is giving up umpiring Australian rules to ride a bike around New Zealand. He is 72 years old. The veteran of the football umpiring community will officiate his last game this morning, an under-16s event, with another veteran umpire, Dean Dempsey. Im not going to have another comeback I promise, he told a collection of umpires at the end of the regular Wednesday night session. But when people you are running with out there are about the same age as my kids, but are also the same as my grandkids, it is time to retire peacefully and go and sit in the grandstand and watch the rest of you, and criticise you. Thanks very much for the teamwork and the team spirit, and the camaraderie that comes through this. After a few jokes about more comebacks than Dame Nellie Melba he got onto a serious subject for the young group skin cancer. You might notice I have got a bit of a small bump on my nose here. Ive got to go and see a doctor next Tuesday to get yet another cancer cut out, he says. Now when I first started umpiring you werent allowed to wear a cap and the sunscreen was pretty ratty stuff. It now works pretty well and we are allowed to wear caps, and if I had my way we would be allowed to wear caps with the arafat backs on them as well. Too many of you still go out there with no sun protection. All I can say to you is, get smart. Wear sun protection and a hat wherever you possibly can because otherwise you are going to end up like me, going backwards and forwards to the Darwin Day Surgery getting bits chopped off you. The skin cancers have been a contributing factor in his decision to retire from umpiring. I have had dozens burned off over the last 15 years, he tells me later. Ive had a big chunk taken out of one of my ears. Ive got an excellent epaulet on the back of my shoulders. It is not a primary reason, but it is certainly a contributing factor. I would say to people as soon as the UV ratings go above 7 or 8, make sure you are covered. I did a bit of time as a health and safety officer. Saw a bloke on a building site on a high rise in the city with a lump on his arm the size of a cricket ball. I said to him, put your tools down and get one of the admin guys and you are going off to the skin cancer clinic. He was in hospital for quite some time. They managed to save his arm, but just. The message was taken on board by the young group. It wasnt Jack lecturing, but engaging with the community he works with, an approach he has adopted in roles well beyond his title as umpire. JACK is best remembered for his work in journalism and as a publisher of various and, at times, infamous publications. He has been a chief-of-staff at the NT News and the owner and publisher of The Litchfield Times and Wagaiteer. It was the cyclone that got me interested in journalism, he says. There was a little thing here called the Bunyip, a little alternative paper, and I wrote a few articles for that. I met Don Benstead at the ABC and he got me into reporting sport for the ABC after the cyclone. They were short as anything and I did some current affairs stuff, radio work and TV work and everything. Jack arrived in Darwin in 1964 with the RAAF. He traversed back and forth to the Top End, pestering the hierarchy for postings, volunteering to work on roofs as part of the Cyclone Tracy rebuild. He started umpiring in the 1972/73 season, and it was interrupted by Tracy and the postings. He was eventually sent back to Melbourne where, during a stint before getting out of the RAAF, he did the first two years of a journalism course at RMIT. I came back and got offered a job at the NT News and did about 18 months and got offered the job as Chief of Staff, he said. In the 1982/83 season I coached umpiring and was also the NT News Chief of Staff under then managing editor John Hogan. I had to give up the coaching after (then NTFL president) Hunter Harrison and I had a discussion about a few things. There wasnt much time to do both roles. In 2002 Chris (Tyzack, Jacks partner) and I moved over to the Cox Peninsula. The first edition of the Wagaiteer came after a controversial water supply meeting in 2003, and I thought the rest of the people who werent at the meeting have got to know about this. So I put out this little four-page newsletter and that turned into the Wagaiteer. It was not his first foray into small publishing. In 1988 he and business partner Val Smith started The Litchfield Times. Litchfield Shire came into existence in 1986 and the rural community really took off, he said. We trebled the circulation ... we went from 20 pages to 96, and a couple of 84s. The community became its own entity and it was tremendous to work with. I think we created a sense of community because I always had a rule of thumb with papers, that if you dont talk with your community, you arent going to make it. During this period Jack recalls a famous headline in regards to Statehood. I certainly had a major run-in with the Chief Minister of the day, Shane Stone, over a major headline put on the front of The Litchfield Times, he says with a smile. Stone had rolled Steve Hattons statehood committee and decided he was going to take over and do his own constitution, with his own rules. The week that happened the headline Stone-henged appeared. When I look back on the editorial that day I cringe a little it is a wonder I never got sued. IN the early part of his life, and the latter part in the rural area, politics have played their part. He has been an active participant in the political process outside of journalism. Jack has a deep sense of a fair go, but resists the suggestion his reporting life was comprised by what he describes as his conscience. Twice he has stood for elected office. The first time in 1974 as the Labor candidate in the seat of Nightcliff, then as Litchfield Shire President. The Nightcliff seat was won by independent Dawn Lawrie. I put the swimming pool for the rural area on the agenda, Jack says, when asked if he is surprised there is still no public pool out there. The election would have to be re-run after a ballot box went missing. But he says he didnt tackle it again and Mary Walsh would go on to be the President. To this day I think I dodged a bullet, he says. Soon after, he moved to Wagait Beach and has never ventured back into politics, partly because he thinks he could only work with a handful of politicians today and two of those are independents. His days of being a paid member of the Labor Party are also over and he admits to being a swinging voter. I was inspired by (Gough) Whitlam in 1966 or 67 when he came out and forced the central committee of the Labor Party to include the parliamentary leader and the deputy leader on the committee, he says. Before that there was no representation. They were going to sack him and he continued, and at the end of it he said in a press conference: In times like those you either crash through or crash. I adopted that as a motto for myself right there and then. But what inspired me to join the Labor Party was one of the federal elections when I was on the RAAF base and they let the sitting Country Party member in and they wouldnt let the Labor Party bloke in. Even though I was a Whitlam fan I wasnt too sure on the Labor Party. I said thats not right, so I went and joined the Labor Party on the strength of it. Ive always believed in the sense of a fair go and I think it is why I stick my neck out when I get in a conversation about Muslims, s and I am absolutely ashamed of Australias stance on refugees. I consider myself a conscience. But I always tried to keep my conscience out of journalism. One of the things people pick up on is a newspaper that preaches rather than reports, and that is what happens when you try to run a newspaper on a conscience. THE latest retirement from umpiring came after an eight-year stint, started when Jack was asked to umpire a few masters games in 2008. He ended up doing the entire season and kept going until today. He finishes having done more than 350 recorded games, but the long-timers around umpiring suggest it is probably more, given records were not kept before the late 1970s. There is no sitting still for the part-time cruise ship tour guide. Next month he and Chris head off to New Zealand on a cycling tour. Chris and I have been going to the gym pretty regularly. Weve been doing several Pilates classes a few times a week ... to strengthen up the body and the core, he says. We are riding the bike in the gym when we are not running. There are heaps of trails around the Cox Peninsula for us to explore and weve been having a great time finding all the spots around the place. The three weeks away includes about nine days of cycling, starting from Dunedin. The first leg is about 160km and the second part is about 120km. When he gets back, Jack plans to still run Hash House Harriers a couple of times a week, a running social club, and will rejoin the Darwin Runners Club, which meets every Wednesday at various locations around Darwin. Jack Ellis, 72, is retiring from Aussie Rules umpiring. But he wont be sitting still any time soon hes heading off to ride a bike around New Zealand SUNDAY FEBRUARY 14 2016 NEWS FEATURE FRONTIER 19 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA