Eric Hawkins began his VFL career in round 10, 1936 and umpired the next four weeks before being dropped to the country competitions. The following year, he umpired the final three rounds only and, after the season, resolved to give umpiring just one more season to make it to the top. It was an excellent decision.
In 1938, Hawkins umpired eighteen matches in eighteen rounds. He had missed round twelve, but had umpired on both the Saturday and the Monday of split round eight. He backed up this success by umpiring in the VFL almost every week for the next two seasons and, at the end of the 1940 season, broke through for his first final.
By 1941, Hawkins was an automatic weekly selection and the final breakthrough came that season when Hawkins, Tom Bride and Alan Coward handled one final each. But, on Grand Final day, it was Hawkins who was appointed to the premiership decider between Melbourne and Essendon. The Demons, decimated by injury, blew the full-strength Bombers away early and recorded a 29-point victory. Hawkins awarded 72 free kicks for the day and, interestingly, 20 went to the premiers and 52 to the runners up.
The following year, Hawkins became the eighth field umpire in VFL history to umpire every final in a season, and he repeated that achievement in 1943 and 1944, making twelve consecutive finals. Due to the Second World War affecting ground availability, none of these matches was played at the MCG, with eight being at Princes Park and four at the Junction Oval.
The 1944 VFL Grand Final was both Hawkins’ and Fitzroy’s last, with Hawkins retiring before the 1945 season. He had amassed 141 matches and was elected Life Member of the VFLUA in 1943 in recognition of his five years service as Association Treasurer.