During August 2003, the Association lost a great contributor of the 1950s. Former VFLUA President and VFL senior field umpire, Warwick L. Roach, passed away at Killarney Vale Nursing Home.
Throughout his career, Roach, a well built man, was renowned for the stiffly starched, turned up collar on his match-day whites and his consideration for fellow umpires.
Born in St.Kilda on 6 June 1922, Warwick joined the VFL umpires in 1947 following his discharge from the Royal Australian Navy. He had originally enlisted in the second AIF in 1941 (14/32nd Bn.), but transferred to the RAN in 1944.
After serving a four-year country apprenticeship, Roach was appointed to his first senior VFL match in round 1, 1951. In a one point thriller at Punt Road, the Bulldogs just held off a fast finishing Richmond. Roach built on this exciting beginning and compiled a 67 game career that spanned the next six seasons. It was an astonishing period of wet winters and, at times, the VFL resorted to white footballs that were easier to see in the mud.
Roach’s own pinnacle of wet weather football came in 1953 at the Western Oval. After days of rain and a burst storm water drain, the ground resembled a lake. Players and umpires alike struggled in ankle deep water and mud. Fitzroy scored their lone goal – and single score – only moments before the final siren.
While he had a successful on-field career, Roach’s contribution to the VFL Umpires’ Association was also significant. Umpires were always looking for an after-match venue and, when he became manager of the Brunswick Club, Roach was happy to oblige. He provided the use of his club’s facilities and, on many occasions, Saturday nights continued well after the regulated closing time of 6.00pm. Roach was manager of the club between 1954 and 1967 and was subsequently elected a life member of the VFLUA
Roach’s more formal VFLUA service was also substantial. Beginning on the Executive Committee in 1950, he was elected junior vice-president the following year. Roach served as senior vice-president under O. E. Thomas in 1953 and succeeded to the presidency in 1954.
It was a time of debate over the changes to life membership and the Executive was constantly the subject of motions regarding changes to the constitution on this subject. Matters came to a head at the 1955 Annual Meeting presided over by Roach. At this meeting, following long debate and two earlier lost motions for differing requirements, the current ten-year life membership qualification was passed.
That Roach’s name does not appear on the list of VFLUA life members despite his ten-year service is a matter of some controversy.
An article appeared in The Herald on Thursday 16 May 1957 in which Roach criticised the umpiring during the previous round. At an Executive meeting on 27 May 1957 it was originally decided to take no action but on a subsequent motion it was decided to send Roach his life membership through the post without comment. This was later reported to a general meeting but a motion from the floor rescinded that decision and that Roach’s certificate be held until such time as he attended a general meeting and explained his action.
The Executive organised a meeting with Roach who was subsequently unable to attend and despite further correspondence the Executive never heard back from Roach and as a result Roach’s life membership remained suspended.
Warwick Lawrence Roach passed away on 25 August 2003, aged 81 years.