Jim Barwick

The Association lost one of its second-generation senior umpires on 16 February 2011.

Jim Barwick, the son of depression-era country field umpire John Barwick – who was also appointed to two VFL matches as a boundary umpire – passed away peacefully aged 88.

While his father’s career with the VFL lasted for four seasons Jim amassed a near-record quarter-century of service to umpiring as a field and goal umpire, Umpires’ Association executive member and training track supervisor.

Born Norman James Barwick in Caulfield on 24 October 1922, Jim’s youth was spent there and neighboring Glenhuntly where he captained Carnegie Under 18s (Caulfield-Oakleigh League) in 1939 and later played for Glenhuntly CYMS and GlenhuntlyYCW winning a premiership and best clubman. Further indication of his football prowess was his invitation to train with Richmond (1940) and Hawthorn (1946) either side of his military service.

Between November 1943 and June 1945 Jim served in the AIF as part of the 118 General Transport Company. He first began to umpire during his service but following demobilization returned to playing. Later he recalled, “After training at Hawthorn one day I got home that night and I was that bloody sore my dad said to me ‘why don’t you take on the whistle’, and I said ‘that’s a good idea’ and I did”. As country leagues resumed the demand for umpires increased.

“I joined the VFL senior list in 1946 and I’ve never regretted it.”

He umpired across Victoria with the immediate success of a Werribee League final in his first year. Over all but one of the ensuing years he was appointed to finals and to Grand Finals in the Nandaly-Bolton (1949), Tyrrell (1949), Alberton (1950) and Western District Reserves (1956) leagues.

While still a field umpire Barwick was also in charge of the Caulfield training track. This meant organising 25-30 umpires at a ground near Caulfield Technical College over the course of the season.

A year leave of absence in 1955 meant that in ten seasons Jim umpired 160 VCFL and metropolitan matches on the senior list including two in Tasmania.

Jim had become a Life Member of the VFLUA in 1955 under the recently created 10-year rule but his service on the Social Committee between 1952 and 1956 would most likely have qualified him for Honorary Life Membership particularly when added to his later service on the Executive Committee from 1962-1964. As it was this service was recognised with a Special Award in 1957 and induction into the AFLUA Hall of Fame in 2008.

After retiring from the field Barwick went to the VFL Reserve Grade list and took up goal umpiring. He returned to the senior list in that capacity in 1961. In round one he was awarded Heritage Number 141 when he umpired Hawthorn versus South Melbourne at Glenferrie Oval.

The 1967 Preliminary Final was Jim’s first final and Geelong, 27 points behind at half time made a remarkable comeback to go through to the Grand Final by 29 points. It was the closest of the three finals Jim would umpire. The 1970 Night Grand Final was altogether different.

Melbourne, fourteen points in arrears to Footscray with only minutes to go, banged through two quick goals at Jim’s end to set up a screaming finish but fell short by just two points It was his third and last Night Grand Final

In 1972 the age limit for goal umpires was fifty years and as a result Jim retired after umpiring the First-Semi Final that year. Of the 189 VFL matches he umpired it was the 1971 Interstate match between Victoria and South Australia at the M.C.G. that he recalled as the most memorable.

“36 of the best at that time” he reminisced some years ago.

After retirement Jim concentrated on bowls and golf. He served as President of the Glenhuntly Bowls Club and was winner of the club triples amongst other victories.

Jim Barwick will be long remembered for his on-field career and service to this umpiring association.