When umpires were considered for inclusion in the Australian Football League Umpires Association Hall of Fame a number of candidates stood out for services rendered. George Hamid was one of these umpires. A man who bore his service to umpiring both on and off the field with pride throughout his life, George passed away on 21 July 2009 and despite illness was his jovial self to the last.
Born just a hundred metres from the then Western Oval on 11 August 1916, George William Hamid had football and the Bulldogs in his heart from a young age. He played football as a youngster and later for Combine in Footscray District League for two premierships.
George started umpiring during army training in North Queensland while serving in the 22nd Battalion. Following his demobilisation he umpired with the Melbourne Boys League before moving straight onto the VFL Senior list in 1946.
In one of the more remarkable rises to the top it was only thirty country matches and three 1946 Second Eighteen matches later before he took control of his first senior VFL match. On 16 August 1947 he umpired Melbourne versus Hawthorn thus earning Heritage Number 201. Appointed to the senior matches for the final three weeks of 1947 and the first four of 1948 a break from football in mid-season was followed by George’s final senior match at a saturated Glenferrie Oval.
“It was so wet that the member of the Umpires’ Board queried me why I ran around the pool of water and I said I couldn’t swim” George said. “It was quicker for me to go around it than go through it.”
His biggest thrill was as an 11-year-old, meeting Footscray legend Allan Hopkins. But his most memorable moment in umpiring was at a Collingwood v Geelong game.
“At half time I walked into the players’ room and every Collingwood player was seated with their complete attention to Jock McHale. You could hear a pin drop” he recalled. “That was the greatest discipline I have ever seen, and the moment will live with me forever.”
With the exception of a seven game run in Second Eighteens at the start of 1949, the remainder of George’s career was spent in the VCFL but what a country career it was. In all it totaled 249 Victorian country and eight Tasmanian matches to go with ten Second Eighteen matches. Twenty one of the country matches were Grand Finals.
George said he rarely had trouble dealing with players, adopting a policy of “trying to get friendly with everybody”. Though he does recall one day in Lake Boga when goodwill was overtaken by fear.
“It was Swan Hill vs. Lake Boga and Lake Boga was in front at their home ground but Swan Hill kicked three goals in quick succession to win. Naturally I was in the outer with the crowd. I was going off the field and this guy came at me swearing at me so I went thump and down he went.
“I got to the gate of the dressing room and another one came at me shouting and I went thump and he hit the ground. I kept going and another fella’ came at me waving his arms and shouting and I thumped him too. I wasn’t going to be assaulted by them. The Umpires’ Board said I was a bit hasty but what was I to do?”
At the 1949 VFLUA Annual Meeting Ron Woolley was elected Honorary Secretary and George his assistant. An injury ended Ron’s umpiring career shortly after. He was replaced by Keith McLellan who also soon resigned. Hamid became secretary of the VFLUA, a position he would hold for the next eight seasons.
During his time in office George managed such things as: membership growth from 142-192 in eight seasons; the traumatic move from honorary to years service based Life Membership; erection of a plaque in Albury to honor William Lester, a well-known local football identity and early work on the VFLUA Provident Fund. With a growing membership, a full social calendar and fortnightly meetings the work load was large yet George reveled in it. At his retirement from office, due mainly Harry Beitzel noted, “… you have always carried your head high and have remained resolute in your fight for the good of the Association. One automatically knows, George, although you are retiring as secretary, your advice and experience will still be available in time to come.”
George received his Life Membership in 1953 and justifiably it was Honorary. Later he was also the recipient of one of the Associations earliest Special Awards (Lifetime Achievement) for services rendered by a Life Member. Given his service, induction to the AFLUA was as close to automatic as it was possible to be.
In 1958 George put away the whistle when a car in which he was a passenger was in an accident. He almost lost his life, but not his love for the game. George was appointed to the Footscray Football Club committee for five years and was also team manager of their Second Eighteen side.
Right up until his death George loved to talk about football, Footscray and umpiring. The Association mourns the loss of one of its finest servants.