James Bell Brewer was born in Carlton on 17 September 1931. A talented footballer he represented Essendon Stars (Melbourne Boys League), Essendon U19s (VFL), Coburg Reserves (VFA) and Keilor (Essendon District FL) before taking up umpiring.
He was appointed to the VFL Reserve Grade umpiring list in 1955-57 and then promoted to the VFL senior panel in 1958. His talent was immediately recognised as he was appointed to three Reserve Grade matches in that first season but it was 1961 before the appointments became regular and ultimately lead to a VFL senior debut in round 6 1962.
That debut in the St.Kilda v. Richmond match made him the 237th field umpire in VFL history. It was followed by three further matches before his performance in round 9 led to a return to the country and it was 18 months until he returned to the seniors. When he did return it led to unbroken run from 1964 to mid-1965 and included the 1965 interstate match South Australia and Tasmania in Devonport. His final VFL matches in 1966 bought his career total to 27 on the back of 54 VFL reserve grade matches.
In the VCFL Jim accumulated 160 VCFL matches (16 grand finals) and 11 Tasmanian matches (1 grand final) and despite his senior VFL experiences it was in the country that he had his most memorable match. He noted of the 1967 VCFL Championship match at Warrnambool “It was between the Hampden and Ballarat Leagues and was the best and fastest game I umpired. It had all the best features of our game it was hard and fast with shades of brilliance on both sides.”
Following his retirement Jim became a life member in 1968 and continued his contribution to umpiring as umpire, coach and administrator. He umpired at the Essendon District Football League in 1970 and became Assistant Advisor there in 1971. He returned to the VFL as the training supervisor of the VFL Umpires at Royal Park in the 1970s and was also a VFL Reserve Grade Umpires Appointment Board member from 1972 until the reserve grade was disbanded a decade later.
Jim Brewer’s life in football in general and umpiring in particular was one to celebrate.