It is my pleasure to introduce to you Walter Charles Hopkins OAM (Wally), aged 92 years and one of the oldest members of the AFLUA. Wally joined the VFL list back in 1948 after a recommendation from the Footscray and District Umpire’s Association. In 1948 you were expected to progress through the Reserve Grade but Wally jumped that list and was appointed to the senior list. After 10 years on our list Wally was awarded Life Membership of the VFLUA in 1958, retiring in 1963. Whilst on the list for 16 years Wally did extensive work with our Social Committee, which saw him awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1958.
Wally umpired 2 VFL seconds, 306 VCFL, 30 Finals, 7 VCFL Grand Finals, 9 Metro F.L. and 2 appointments in Tasmania. A total of 356 appointments. Remember, in those days, on most occasions you would leave on a train Thursday night and return Sunday evening.
Outside of umpiring, Wally performed as the Master of Ceremonies for many years, at local dances. These included The Exhibition building (Royal Ballroom), Footscray, Sunshine, Malvern, South Melbourne and Williamstown Town Halls as well as 10 other country venues and twice Interstate (Tasmania).
Wally, born in Seddon in May 1924, always lived in Footscray having moved 5 times no more than a drop kick each time from the Footscray Football Ground. He attended Geelong Rd State School completing grade 8 and receiving his Merit Certificate. Not being academically inclined, his parents enrolled him at the Footscray Technical School to learn a trade which saw him graduate as an engineering apprentice in 1939.
Wally has also chalked up 75 years with the First Footscray Scout Troop, receiving the highest award in Australian Scouting – a ‘Silver Kangaroo’ in 1998.
In 1940 Wally attended an interview at POLSON MOTOR PARTS in Carlton, a long way from Footscray in those days. “I was accepted as an employee and commenced on 8th February 1940. To his delight, he saw the company move their factory to Maidstone, this brought a smile to his face as it meant less travelling time toand from work on his bike. Wally started on 15/- ($1.50) per week as a 1st year apprentice, with 2/6 (25 cents) for the use of his bike for messages. Not long after he started and with WW2 in progress, this necessitated many changes in the industry. Polson was converted from manufacturing Motor Parts to Aircraft Parts under Government Supervision. This meant it became a “Protected Industry” which meant employees could not transfer or leave, could not join up into any of the armed services unless approved. In 1965 the company was taken over by Repco and was re-named Repco Engine Parts Maidstone. Wally had worked his way up in the company finishing up as Warehouse Manager responsible for stock control throughout Australia, retiring after 44 years in the same Industry.
His Order of Australia Medal was received for his community service in 1998.
Other awards received by Wally include – the Maribyrnong Citizen of the year, 7 Life Memberships, 7 Letters of Appreciation and 2 Citizens Awards.
Wally said the Community Alumni Award from Victoria University, was great and unexpected. “Today’s university is sophisticated and academic to a great extent and at the presentation I felt a little out of place because of all the other folk that were nominated and the academic qualifications they had and their employment made them standout. I was just a student at the Footscray Tech in 1938 and 1939,’ he said.
During his younger years Wally played Football with the Braybrook Football Club, many a champion has come out of that Club, names like Ted Whitten, Doug Hawkins, George Bisset, Ray Walker, Brian Wilson, Robert Groenewegen, John Cuzzupe and Albert Proud. Wally played centre and with his pace and accurate disposal of the ball he was able to make his presence felt. One regular opponent whenever they played Spotswood was a kid named Sutton, Charlie Sutton later Captain & Coach of Footscray in their 1954 premiership. Wally always had a torrid time keeping up with Charlie every time they played on one another.
After his football days, Wally ventured into umpiring via the Footscray & District League. After his 16 year stint in the VFL which saw him umpire in almost every major town and city in Victoria, as well as NSW, SA & Tasmania, he estimates he has travelled over 77,000 kilometres to and from games, Wally returned to his roots with the Footscray Umpires. Wally became the Umpires Advisor at the Footscray District League from 1965 to 1974. Wally stated that it was always his ambition to have a young junior umpire under my care that would develop into a top VFL/AFL umpire, and my wish was granted, not once, but twice.” Mike Dye a VFL Grand Final Umpire and Peter Howe a regular VFL umpire, both well respected, were Wally’s boast to fame as an Umpires Advisor.
He was awarded Life Membership in 1972 of the FDLUA, now called the Western Region Football League Umpires Association. Retiring from umpiring for a while, Wally returned to be on the Hall of Fame selection panel for the umpires’ association in 2003 & 2004. He was awarded Legend status of the WRFLUA in 2006.
In 2004 Wally was nominated for “Australian of the Year”, unfortunately he was not successful.
Wally’s other sporting interests included cricket with Braybrook, gymnastics, tennis, table tennis, hockey and athletics. “No hobbies, didn’t have any time for a hobby, TOO BUSY” exclaimed Wally. But he did find time to periodically play Cricket with the VFL Umpires Association Cricket team as an opening batsman.
This year Wally will celebrate 70 years of marriage to his lovely wife Evelyn. They have four children, Julie, Neville, Susan and Gregory. They have 10 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
Wally now spends most of his time in the garden although he is classified as legally blind. Wally has never had a cigarette, has been virtually a Teetotaller all his life and only gambles in footy tipping and sweeps. A hoarder, Wally thinks that if you keep things long enough, it will one day come in handy.
Wally is still a regular attendee at our X-men luncheons at Mornington. Wally says, “That the love and happiness that I have enjoyed in my years is to accept the fact that LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT, AND YOU GET OUT OF LIFE WHAT YOU ARE PREPARED TO PUT INTO IT.”
Here here Wally.
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows