BHoganBernie Hogan contributed an enormous amount to football as an umpire, an administrator and an author. His recent passing ended a long relationship with the game he loved and made more accessible to those who could not face reading the Laws from front to back.

Bernard Mannix Hogan was born on 5 March 1918 to Mick and Johanna, the second eldest of seven children. He left the farm at Donald, in the Mallee, aged of 16 and moved to Melbourne where he completed his secondary studies at nights employed at the Commonwealth Railways. Bernie moved steadily through the organisation ultimately attaining the top job as Executive Director.

During the Second World War Bernie put his administrative skills to work on transport in the Darwin area. Major milestones followed the war, firstly marriage to Sheila in 1947 and, secondly, his promotion to the VFL senior list the following year.

Country records for this period are scarce but Bernie moved very quickly through the ranks. So fast that by the middle of his first year he was umpiring VFL Second Eighteen football and during his second season he was appointed to his first VFL senior match, South Melbourne versus Hawthorn at the Lake Oval, and again the following week at Punt Road. The latter match was most notable as Richmond legend Jack Dyer’s final VFL match.

It was only a brief taste of life at the top and it was back to the reserves and the bush until round seven 1950 when he returned to the city for three matches. Brunswick Street and Glenferrie Oval were mud-heaps that Melbourne winter and all three of the three matches were dour struggles. They also did not give much opportunity for Bernie to display his excellent running form which was honed as a competitive athlete with numerous successes around Victoria’s professional circuit.

In the Hawthorn-Richmond clash Bernie and both boundary umpires reported Hawthorn captain, Kevin Curran, for rough play after a late and violent bump. Curran has just returned from four weeks suspension and received another month on the sidelines when the tribunal found him guilty. South Melbourne versus Melbourne was to be Bernie’s last senior match. His remaining years saw him unable to break back into the ‘big six’.

Nevertheless, consistent umpiring and a wealth of experience saw him appointed to the Second Eighteens, Grand Finals in Hume Football League, and the North-West Football Union (Tas.) – amongst others – and various Country League representative matches. Bernie retired from the VFLUA at the completion of the 1953 season after six years service and attaining Heritage Number 209.

Almost immediately he took up the role of Secretary of the VFL Reserve Grade Umpires Appointment Board and held it for seven years. During this period the Board was responsible for organising 350 umpires each week to officiate in minor metropolitan and country leagues. Moving from the Reserve Grade to the VFL Umpires Appointment Board, Bernie spent fifteen seasons as both member and, ultimately, Chairman observing, reporting on and appointing Senior List umpires.

Peter Sheales, who knew Bernie in both these later roles, recalls “He was a man who had huge respect amongst umpires. Very positive with his advice and his encouragement and guidance made many of us, better umpires, myself included. He was a perfect gentleman in every way, and it was a privilege to know him.”

 It was during his time on the VFL UAB that Bernie decided to produce an easy to read guide to the laws of Australian football. His objective was to:

Explain in detail the rules of the game including what is specifically provided for , allowed and disallowed by the laws and the interpretations of the laws which are given from time to time by the National Football League of Australia

The new book was titled Follow the game and the first edition was published in 1968. It incorporated clear explanations and examples and used simple ‘stick figures’ as illustrations. It was so successful that it went through six editions (the final being 1983) and the explanations and interpretations were included by the NFL in their Umpire’s Manual which, at the time, was the umpiring text book.

Bernie’s final involvement with the laws was as a member of the VFL Laws of the Game Review Board in the early 1980s.

Bernie Hogan passed away on Australia Day 2007. Football and its followers were much the better through Bernie Hogan’s involvement and he will be sadly missed by his umpiring contemporaries, family and all who knew him.