“FROGGY” as he affectionately known was born on the 2nd of December 1945 to Sidney & Phyllis Thomson at Reservoir. Alan has a brother Ian and in 1973 married Dianne. They have two children, Christopher and Sally.
I hear you asking how did he get the nickname “FROGGY?” I’m reliably informed that because Alan is a fast bowler, he delivered the ball with a windmill like action off the wrong foot (“bowled off his front leg like a FROG in a windmill”, hence the name). “FROGGY” informs me that it came from high school when his voice broke!
Alan who was tops in two sports, VFL football umpiring and cricket was left with a dilemma trying to participate in both Sports.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Alan attended Tyler Street Primary School. He was a keen sportsman from the beginning, playing football with Regent Presbyterians and one year with Regent in the PDJFA and cricket with the same club in the Northern Churches Competition. Aged 13 Alan joined the Northcote Cricket Club playing in the Dowling Shield Under 16’s for two years. Alan chose to go to Northcote High School and this is where his umpiring ability came to the fore, participating as the school football umpire at the age of 15 in the inter- high school competition.
John Ibraham, who went on to play with North Melbourne, was captain of the Northcote High School team at the time, while Alan was studying wanting to become a school teacher.
In 1961 Alan, wanting to further his umpiring career decided to join the PDJFA umpiring squad. That same year he ventured down to the Fitzroy Cricket Club to try his luck at the senior cricket association in Victoria. After Two years with the PDJFA Alan decided it was time to move on and try out with the VFL Reserve Grade, in season 1963.
Still playing cricket, Alan was moving through the grades at a rapid rate, and knocking on the door of senior selection with the Fitzroy Cricket Club. Season 1964-65 saw him debut taking 5/39 against Richmond in their 1st Innings. As Bill Lawry, would say “It’s all happening”, as in the following years Alan was promoted to the umpiring on the VFL Senior List in 1967 and in 1969 represented Victoria in Sheffield Shield Cricket.
His first-class debut was against New South Wales in Sydney where he took 6/114 in the first innings. In his next match for Victoria, that just happened to be against the touring West Indians in Melbourne, he took 5/76 and 6/84. The following season Alan dominated as the Test team toured India & South Africa. He had an outstanding season with 55 wickets in 10 matches at an average of 18.74. Against New South Wales in Melbourne, he took 5/54 and 8/87 which remained his best innings and match figures for his career.
While all this was happening on the cricket scene, Alan was travelling the country umpiring for the VFL. After only two seasons and receiving excellent reports from the bush, , Alan came onto the Senior list as the No.7 rated umpire. He was appointed to his first VFL Reserve Grade game, Geelong v Melbourne. With excellent reports from the city observers and after only 20 Reserve Grade games, Alan was appointed to his first Senior VFL game on June 20, Melbourne v South Melbourne at VFL Park.
Alan was awarded Heritage number 260, under the one umpire system. Unfortunately, after only two games Alan was sent back to the reserves. He got caught by you know who!!!! Alan tells me he lost control, so it was fair enough.
At the start of the 1970-71 cricket season, Alan took 6/80 and 3/101 against the MCC as the tourists were dismissed for 142 and 341 in their match against Victoria. As a result, Alan was called up to represent Australia in the Ashes series. It was every child’s dream.
Alan failed to live up to expectations, partly due to dropped and missed catches. He was heralded as the great white hope but the reality didn’t match the hype and in his four tests he took only 12 expensive wickets.
Its claimed that he wasn’t quite as quick as he had been built up to be. You should have been at Corben Oval fielding at first slip for the VFL umpires cricket team, with Ray Sleeth the Captain/Keeper.
We were that far back we were almost in the Yarra River. In one of the umpire’s games, in a match against East Keilor, their captain facing a warm up ball from “Froggy”, commented that he wasn’t so fast after all. The very next ball he was struck between the eyes and had to retire hurt, I think he forgot his helmet. The good thing about Alan, is that he would always play with the umpires when he didn’t have state duties.
After the 1970-71 season, Alan played irregularly for Victoria and two wicketless matches in 1974-75 were his last. That also included playing at District Level. Alan’s second chance in the VFL came in 1972 but four games into his stint, he umpired his last game at Carlton on Saturday 15 July 1972, when the Umpires Board decided to drop the rotation from eight umpires down to six.
Alan only lasted one more season on the senior VFL list. In 1974 the Ovens & Murray League broke away from the union, and some of our umpires formed a rebel group, Alan was part of that group and umpired in that league for two years, before retiring.
In 1979 Alan returned to umpiring in the Eastern District League to earn some extra cash to take the family away on a holiday. When Alan told umpires coach Kevin Collins mid-way through the season that he would not be available for the finals, Kevin was disappointed to say the least and “Froggy” received ordinary games you might say, and before the season’s end hung up the boots.
As his football and cricket had their ups and downs, Alan continued with his working life as a teacher in the Education Department. Now you think about it, put yourself in Alan’s shoes with matches, pre-season training, work commitments, family life, in two elite sports, I take my hat off to the man.
Alan’s most embarrassing moment in umpiring came in his second senior appointment at Footscray when he told me he stuffed up, causing one almighty brawl.
His two favourite umpires were Bill Deller and Ian Coates. He loves classical music; it enhances what he calls his good sense of humour.
Alan tells me he should be out doing more exercise as he suffers with respiratory symptoms and a sore back, but the love of his sport on pay TV and a glass of red keeps him housebound.
What a shame Alan didn’t do two more years to receive his Life Membership.
In the 2014-15 cricket season Alan was Inducted into the Fitzroy Cricket Club HALL OF FAME.
THE FOLLOWING ARE ALAN’S CAREER FIGURES VFL. UMPIRING
6 senior VFL games, (one umpire); 58 VFL reserve grade games, (one umpire); 89 VCFL appointments which included 5 VCFL grand finals (Ovens & King, Alberton, Farrer, Northern Districts and Waranga North East); 13 VCFL finals; 3 mid-week appointments and 2 inter-League games which equalled 158 appointments in his VFL career.
Fitzroy Cricket Club
1st XI career 1964-65 to 1975-76 (12 seasons;113 matches); Right hand opening bowler, 322 wickets, at an average of 17.67, including 19 five wicket innings. Member of 1966-67 Fitzroy Cricket Club premiership team taking 6/72 in the final. Alan with 322 wickets is ranked eighth with most wickets taken for the Fitzroy Cricket Club behind Eddie Illingworth 599 wickets.
FIRST CLASS CAREER; –
Forty-four matches, taking 184 wickets at an average of 26.72, including 12 five wicket innings. Member of Australian touring team to New Zealand in 1969-70. four Tests, taking 12 wickets at an average of 54.50.
In 1968-69 Alan took 49 Shield wickets for Victoria who won the Shield that year. Alan played in the first one-day international taking the very first ODI wicket with Bill Lawry taking the catch at forward square leg. His 4 tests and one ODI were all in the 1970-71 season.
As a number 11 batsman, Alan seldom reached double figures. His highest first class score was 34 not out against Tasmania, but he had a test batting average of 22.00.
CONGRATULATIONS ALAN ON A BRILLIANT CAREER MANAGING BOTH SPORTS.
Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme ‘Wizzer’ Fellows