Stanley Crawford George Tomlins was born in Footscray on 22 November 1923. He came to umpiring after a very successful career as a senior player in the Victorian Football Association and an injury shortened stint in the Victorian Football League.
His early football years were spent in the Shepparton region but he moved to Melbourne in 1940 where he lived in Malvern and played with the Spring Road Methodists aged 16.
Despite his enlistment in 1943 as a signalman in the Australian Army, he played football for Hampton Amateurs and practiced with Richmond before being recruited to Sandringham in 1946. After kicking nine goals in one reserves game in 1946, Stan became part of a successful senior Zebra team rebuilding after the war. In 1947 Sandringham won 15 of their 22 encounters and finished the home and away season in third position. After winning both the firstsemi and preliminary finals they failed by 31 points to overcome Port Melbourne in the grand final. Playing the year at centre half-back in every game (with occasional forays to the half-forward line), Stan became the first Sandringham player to win the J.J. Liston trophy, the VFA’s award for the best and fairest in the competition.
Writing in the Sporting Globe, Jim Blake noted, “a perusal of the votes cast by the umpires shows that Stan polled his best tallies in the vital games where it was necessary for one man to swing the game. He is at his best when the Zebras are up against it.”
In 1948 he crossed to Richmond, without a clearance, and played twelve senior matches and kicked twenty-three goals before a serious shoulder injury ended his playing career. According to Rhett Bartlett, Richmond historian, “He will be remembered for his tremendous long kicks, but to Richmond Museum curator Ron Reiffel, he was more famous for his constant battle with collarbone injuries . It seems that Tomlins was always in the hands of trainers, trying to fix his collarbone.”
Turning to umpiring later in life than most, he joined the VFLUA in 1959 aged 35 and, although never achieving VFL senior level, he was a highly respected and revered umpire throughout country Victoria until his retirement in 1971. Known by his nickname, ‘Comfy’, as a result of a relaxed attitude and penchant for wearing slippers on the trains to his country appointments, he officiated at numerous country finals and Grand Finals. He was often regarded as the elder statesman on trips away given that he took up umpiring .
Not content to simply train and umpire, Stan took on a number of roles with the VFLUA.
From 1963 to 1967 he was Social Committee member under Social Secretaries Pat McGough and Brian Pratt.
Brian recalls, “He was good worker on the committees and, given the number of social events the Association held and the number who attended, it was just as well because there was a lot of work to do.”
In 1968 he moved to the Executive Committee for a single season before taking on the role of Social Secretary in 1969 and 1970. With his committee, he organised a wide variety of events including dances, films and a night at ‘TV Ringside. No small feat given that VFLUA balls attracted in excess of 1200 people in those years. Stan gave up the position after two years because the increased frequency of interstate travel with work would not allow him to devote as much time to Association social affairs. His successful tenure was recognised by a Special Award in 1971, which was also his final year as an umpire with the VFL.
After umpiring Stan continued sporting activities. In particular he was a member of the Patterson River Country Club for many years. He had joined with both regular playing partner and former VFLUA Secretary Mark Turner, and Jeff Crouch.
Made an Honorary Life Member of the VFLUA in 1967, Stan typified the motto of the VFLUA ‘virtue and constancy’ both on the field and through his service to fellow members.
Stanley Tomlins passed away after a short illness on 25 June 2004, aged 80. He is survived by his wife Dawn, daughters Christine and Lorraine, grand children and great-grandchildren. Vale Stan Tomlins, servant of umpiring.
Rhett Bartlett – http://www.rhettrospective.com
Unofficial Sandringham Football Club Web site