This award was struck in 1986 in honour of Ian Coates, VFL umpire, AFLUA life member and Special Award recipient, and coach and mentor to many young umpires in the role of VFL umpires’ specialist coach to which he was appointed after his premature retirement in 1973.
A champion junior footballer, Ian commenced umpiring in 1967 and was appointed to his first senior VFL game in 1968 in only his second year as an umpire, a meteoric rise in any era. In a career cut short by illness, 1968 to 1973, Ian umpired 94 VFL matches including 5 finals and was expected to become one of the all time great grand final umpires. In 1972, Ian was diagnosed to be suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, a debilitating illness for which there is no known cause and no known cure.
Through sheer courage and determination, he umpired throughout 1973 and despite deteriorating health still performed well enough to be appointed to the VFL first semi-inal. This was to be his last VFL senior game as his health was failing so rapidly he could not continue on in 1974.
Upon his retirement, the VFL appointed him as umpires’ advisor and specialist coach and in these roles he was instrumental in the development and career advancement of many young VFL umpires, several of whom went on to umpire VFL/AFL grand finals.
In addition, he was a tireless worker for the VFLUA, serving on Executive and other committees, and was awarded honorary life membership in 1974 and later the AFLUA Special Award in recognition of his outstanding service to umpiring and the association.
Ian passed away on the 25th November 1985.