Brian Pratt was the ultimate umpires’ man. Few involved with umpiring at VFL/AFL level can match his contribution as field and goal umpire, committee member, coach and volunteer. Through it all he never stopped smiling and making umpiring better for umpires.
Born Brian Neil Pratt on 4 February 1937 he played football for Clifton Hill YCW in the suburb where he grew up. In 1952 he took the first step to becoming an inaugural inductee of the AFLUA Hall of Fame by joining the VFL Second Eighteen Umpires Association as a field umpire. After six seasons he was promoted to the senior list joining his brother Harold who had been promoted the year before.
By 1965 he was getting regular VCFL finals and a number of chances in the VFL Reserve Grade. His three grand finals came in 1966-67 – Southern Mallee, Tyrrell and Northern Districts.
At retirement following the 1970 season he had umpired 7 VFL Reserves, 8 Metropolitan, 1 Tasmanian and 209 VCFL matches. Additionally he had served on the VFLUA Social Committee from 1963-66 and then as Social Secretary from 1967-68. This was a period where there was a social event every month and dances attracted 1000 people from all over Victoria. He was awarded life membership in 1968 and a then Special Award (now Lifetime Achievement Award) the following year. For many umpires this would be a career and a half but Brian’s most successful period on-field and coaching achievements were yet to come.
Returning to the Reserve Grade as a goal umpire in 1971 he took to the new discipline immediately. Appointed to the 1973 VFL Under-19 Grand Final then the 1974 VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final he was promoted to the senior list for 1975. Debuting in round 2 at Arden Street he earned Heritage Number 164. The success continued as he became the first goal umpire in the modern era (1931- ) to umpire a final in his first year on the senior list. In 1976 he completed the VFL trifecta in four years when he was appointed to the VFL grand final.
He often noted that his most memorable football moment was, the roar at the first bounce and his first decision of the match but the previous week’s preliminary final was up there too. North Melbourne besieged his goal in the last quarter kicking three late goals to scrape home by a point deep in time-on.
Brian returned to the grand final in 1983 but in-between he had umpired a final every season and four consecutive night grand finals from 1977-80.
In 1986 the 50-years of age rule was still in place and Brian retired after 212 VFL matches including 16 finals two of which were grand finals.
When he returned to the senior list as a goal umpire he also returned to the Executive Committee serving in 1977-78. His career as a VFLUA listed umpire spaned 25 years.
On his retirement Brian became the VFL assistant goal umpires’ advisor between 1988 and 1989. He came back as the AFL national director of goal umpiring between 1993 and 1995. In a coaching role Brian spoke from experience and his quiet, straightforward, inclusive manner gained respect from his umpires. It was no surprise when in 2000 the Brian Pratt Medallion was struck in his honour and presented to the best first or second year AFL goal umpire each year.
Right to the end of his life Brian was involved. At his passing on 26 April 2015 he was serving on the AFLUA Hall of Fame Sub-committee, a role he had undertaken since its inauguration in 2005.
Vale Brian Pratt, a great umpire and coach, an exceptional contributor to the AFLUA and a man who stood for all of the values our association holds dear.