The family moved to New Zealand, arriving in Wellington on board the Hydaspes in October 1870 and lived for six years in New Plymouth before returning to Wellington. Dumbell played for the Athletic club in Wellington and made his representative debut for Wellington in 1877. At that time provincial fixtures were infrequent and he played only five matches for Wellington between 1877 and 1883.
In 1884 Dumbell was included in the first New Zealand team, which toured New South Wales and played five matches.
His first match came before they left for Australia, when they played a Wellington XV. On 28 May they played against Cumberland County in Sydney. Dumbell played on the wing as they eased to a convincing 33–0 victory.
The next match again in Sydney saw them up against Combined Suburbs XV, with Dumbell again on the wing. The next venue was the Newcastle Sports Ground where they played the Northern Districts.
With poor weather conditions the New Zealand team battled on securing the game 29–0.
The last game of the tour was against Western Districts in Bathurst. This was one of the tougher matches of the tour and at halftime it was only 4–0. Dumbell had ended up with nine points for the tour, scoring a try and a drop goal in the last match.
Weighing around 50 kg, Dumbell was one of the smallest men to play for New Zealand, if not the smallest, but despite his size he was admired for his speed, courage and willingness to tackle much bigger opponents.
After his retirement from playing Dumbell served the Wellington union as a management committee member, selector and representative referee. Dumbell worked for the government audit department for 44 years, retiring in 1921.
Following the death of Edwin Davy in 1935, Dumbell held the distinction of being the oldest living All Black. He died in New Plymouth in 1936 and was buried at Te Henui Cemetery.
A utility, who played as a halfback, wing and forward, he was a member of the first national team in 1884.