John Higgins

John Higgins was a 100 game VFL boundary umpire who achieved this milestone with little fuss and a strong work ethic.  He was renowned for his dress sense and style both on and off the field.

John Patrick Higgins was born in Melbourne’s western suburbs and spent his entire life in that area, much of it with his mother in Geelong Road, Footscray.  A telephone technician by trade, he was employed by the Postmaster-General for more than three decades.

He took up the boundary with the VFL Reserve Grade in the early 1950s and umpired Reserve Grade finals in 1954 and 1955.  This success resulted in promotion to the VFL senior list of boundary umpires for the 1956 season with John McNiff and Richard Kidd.  On 21 April of that year, John umpired the Fitzroy versus Essendon match at Brunswick Street.  His first VFL match made him the 305th boundary umpire in VFL history.  Later in the year, the VFL instituted its night competition and John umpired the third game under lights at the Lake Oval.  It took his first year’s total to 13 matches and set a pattern for his career that was remarkably consistent.  Each year resulted in 14 to 15 matches and he only missed the night competition in one year.

A number of his contemporaries remember that he was not a naturally gifted athlete.  Ray Calway commented “He was a gutsy runner, not a lot of speed but ran on determination”.  Given that the VFL panel at the time contained athletes such as Des Fitzgerald, John Geggie and Phil Stone, it is perhaps not surprising that John did not break through to VFL finals.

Nevertheless, as a ‘happy go lucky sort of fellow’, John did enjoy his umpiring.  He loved running on the field and, off the field, threw himself into both social events and Executive work.  He was a regular whenever a pleasant Sunday morning was held and often joined fellow western suburbs cronies Gordon Watt, Charlie Black and George Mather in Gordon’s car as they went ‘into town’ for umpiring meetings after training.  As a keen golfer and a member of the Medway Golf Club, he was also a regular attendee on the VFL Golf Club trips away.

John was a member of the VFL Umpires’ Association Executive Committee for his last four years on the list viz. 1959-1962.  It was for this work that he was elected to Honorary Life Membership of the Association in 1963.

John’s final match in the VFL was at the Lake Oval in the first round of the 1962 night series.  It was his 100th senior match.

John never married but retained some links with umpiring through the Golf Club and the friends he made while on the boundary.  He passed away on 7 June 2006 at a nursing home in Melton, the result of Alzheimer’s disease.  Vale John.

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