Peter ‘Alec’ Nicholson
Alec Nicholson punctuated his VFL career with a stint in the Wimmera and was one of a handful of umpires of his era to come straight onto the senior list.
Peter Alexander Nicholson was born on 26 November 1928 in Stawell, near the Victorian town of Great Western where he grew up and played football for the local side in the Southern Wimmera FL. He also played cricket and was active in professional athletics.
Following a move to Melbourne he began umpiring with the Victorian Football Association in 1955 and after only one season was accepted on the the VFL senior list. The 1956 season proved satisfactory but a return home to the Wimmera in 1957-58 meant a leave of absence from the VFL. During that time he umpired with the Wimmera District umpires and once back in the city he picked up with the VFL.
It was five years before he umpired his first finals and it was not until his final season that he officiated in his first senior VCFL final. His final match was to be the 1965 Benalla-Tungamah Preliminary Final but the match resulted in a draw and Alec went back the following to umpire the replay.
In eight VFL senior list seasons Alec umpired 130 VCFL matches including 6 finals.
Umpiring with the VFL turned out to be just one part of a sporting and business career that covered playing, coaching and administering Australian football, athletics, cricket, tennis as well as owning Sydney nightspots.
Born Raymond Henry Catherall in Melbourne on 6 October 1927 he grew up in Buninyong and Ballarat before returning to Melbourne. He played senior football with Brunswick in the VFA until 1949. That year was also significant for his running as he was secretary of the Melbourne Harriers Club as well as being champion over five and seven miles.
In 1950 Ray married Winifred Cunningham (with Australian Test player and friend Neil Harvey as groomsman) and also took up umpiring with the VFL Second Eighteens. He was promoted to the VFL senior list in 1953. The years 1955-58 were the highlights of the eight seasons he spent with the VFL. He debuted in the Second Eighteens in 1955 and ultimately umpired 11 seconds matches. In the country he umpired VCFL preliminary finals in the Port Fairy District (1955) and Mallee (1956) leagues and the 1956 reserves second semi-finals in the Ovens and Murray and Murray Football leagues.
At the end of his eight year VFL career he had totaled 11 second eighteen, 114 VCFL, 5 Metropolitan and 1 Tasmanian matches.
Ray umpired with the VFA from 1961-63 before hanging up the whistle and moving on to the next stages of his sporting endeavours.
His first move into coaching was not an overwhelming success. Taking charge of Old Hailebury for the 1964 season they year was best remembered for the unusual scenario of Haileyburians having to play Hampton Rovers after the finals series in a catch up game to see if the Hailebury would be relegated or not. They survived but Ray did not, losing his job to B.A.R. Clarke he moved to Sydney in 1966 to to take up a partnership in two of Sydney’s leading night spots – Mother’s Cellar and Moby Dicks restaurants at Kings Cross.
Unable to remain out of football he originally applied for the NSW Umpires’Association coaching position but ended up taking the coaching job at Sydney Naval where he gained some notoriety by playing ‘soothing’ music to his players in the change rooms at half-time breaks. Again he lasted only one season at the club moving to coach Sydney University the following year and yet another one-year tenure.
These coaching stints lead to a interest in coaching generally and a change of sporting interests led to Catherall being appointed coach of the Canadian national cricket team in the 1980s and later junior Coach and tactical/skills coach at Glenorchy in Tasmania.
Bryan Grant, who passed away 13 April 2016, was a member of a prominent umpiring family who all tasted some success at the highest level. His father Norman was a VFL grand final goal umpire and his younger brother Roly field umpired senior VFL football in the 1960s. Bryan found his own way to success and the 1967 VFL Grand Final was in the best family tradition.
Born in Melbourne on 9 June 1932 Bryan joined the VFL Second eighteens as a goal umpire in 1959. Following appointment to the 1962 VFL Reserve Grade and 1963 VFL U19 Grand Finals he was promoted to the VFL senior list.
His first VFL match was at Glenferrie Oval on Anzac Day 1964 and an inaccurate Hawthorn (9.20) kept both goalies on their toes. Breaking through to the finals panel for the first time with the 1966 Second Semi-final he followed that with the interstate clash between Victoria and South Australia in 1967.
The 1967 VFL Grand Final was one the best for years over four quarters. In a rollicking last quarter the lead changed four times and four times scores were level. Richmond were kicking to Grant’s city end and the pressure was intense with a series of quick snaps and close on-line decisions all handled coolly including Kevin Bartlett’s ultimate game winner on the run which set the crow to a new level of frenzy sealing the Tigers’ first premiership since 1942.
Michael Edward Rigg was born on 14 August 1938.
He joined the VFL Second Eighteens as a boundary umpire in 1958 and transferred to the field the following year. Promotion to the senior list came in 1963 where he umpired for a single season before taking a five year break. Returning to the list in 1969 he completed a further three seasons before retiring at the end of 1971
In total he umpired 62 VCFL matches including his only final the 1971 Southern Mallee Reserves Second Semi-final.
One of a pair of umpiring brothers who both achieved life membership Jack Martin passed away on 14 February 2017.
His service to umpiring encompassed 15 years from when he joined the VFL Second Eighteen competition as a field umpire in 1949 to the 1963 Northern District Football League Reserves Second semi-final.
Known universally as Jack, John Donald Martin was born in Mentone on 3 December 1924. Growing up in Mentone and Cheltenham he played football for Cheltenham in the Federal League (vice-captain of 1942 Under 18 premiers) and later in the Caulfield-Oakleigh FL.
After two years in the VFL Second Eighteens Jack was promoted the senior list in 1951 at the same time as his younger brother Reg.
In 13 seasons all around Victorian country football he amassed 212 VCFL (6 finals) and 6 Metropolitan matches.
Reg and Jack both received life membership in 1961.
Following retirement Jack was active with the VFLUA Golf Club for many years.
Vale J.D. Martin.
One of twins born in North Adelaide on 27 April 1926 Victor Frederick Henshaw began umpiring with the South Australian National Football League in 1949. From 1949-1953 he was appointed primarily to country matches a field umpire. He may also have shown talent as a player given his position in the SANFLUA football teams 1949 victory over a Walkerville District side at the local sports day
A move to Melbourne in 1954 found him successful in gaining a place on the VFL senior list directly from South Australia. As with his SA career he was appointed to country football accumulating 50 VCFL along with 9 Metropolitan FL matches . The highlight of the time may have been his appointment to a single VFL Second Eighteen match St.Kilda v. North Melbourne at the Junction Oval in 1954.
Victor Henshaw passed away 22 June 2017 aged 91
Clyde Plant passed away peacefully on 2 July 2017 after a short illness. Clyde was a larger than life character who was always the centre of attention at the AFLUA annual Queensland luncheons. He was never short of a story to tell.
While Clyde only umpired on the VFL senior list for two years (1951-52, 24 matches) he was an active member of VFL Reserve Grade Umpires’ Association in the years before and after his time on the senior list. Clyde was on the executive committee, secretary (1959–61) and was recognised with life membership of the VFLRGUA for his services
Clyde Leonard Plant was born on 22 August 1925 and grew up in Salvation Army Boys Home, Elgar Road, Box Hill. He played football at school and at Yarra Glen (Yarra Valley FL)
Beginning umpiring in 1936 at the boys home under Maurie Sheahan, a teacher and Richmond player, his first open-age umpiring was with the Victorian Football Association. He had joined them in the year after his demobilisation from two years service in the RAAF. Moving onto the VFL Second Eighteens from 1949-50 and again from 1953-61 he was involved in all aspects of umpiring.
Moving to Queensland he continued this umpiring involvement both on and off the field. Umpiring in the QAFL led to the position of umpires advisor for Gold Coast umpires between 1969-1972 and then Townsville where he umpired and was the umpires advisor between 1973-1974. He courted some media controversy by appointing himself to the 1971 Gold Coast Grand Final.
A foundation member of the Gold Coast Umpires’ Association, he was president for three years and subsequently awarded life membership of that association.
His other sporting love was lawn bowls. As president and coach Twin Towns Services BC (1997, 2004-05) and committee member of Gold Coast District Bowls 1996-2004 he was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
Robert Kevin Miller was born in the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury on 3 January 1930. He played school football in winter and cricket and tennis in the summer where in his own words he “enjoyed the company of much better players”.
Known as Kevin rather than Robert he commenced his umpiring career in 1946 in the East Suburban Churches football competition as a boundary umpire. Two years later he was accepted onto the VFL Second Eighteens as a field umpire where he umpired until the end of 1950. Joining the VFL senior panel in 1951 he umpired 6 VFL Second Eighteen, 180 VCFL and 5 Metropolitan matches before his retirement in 1962.
The grand finals he umpired were in the Kowree-Narracoorte, Mid-Murray, Nandaly and Omeo leagues giving an indication of the corners of Victoria Kevin and his colleagues visited during the era.
Robert was made a life member of the VFLUA in 1962. He returned to the East Suburban Churches in 1963 until his retirement from umpiring at the end of 1966.
Robert passed away on November 15, 2017 aged 87, in Tasmania. He is survived by his wife Joan and their family.
William John McLennan was born in 1935 and Bill commenced his umpiring career with the VFL Reserve grade in 1957 as a boundary umpire. He switched to the field in 1960, remaining on the Reserve Grade until he was promoted to the VFL Senior panel in 1963. Bill retired from the panel in 1972.
He umpired 152 VCFL games including 3 finals and 3 metropolitan matches.
Bill was awarded AFLUA life membership in 1973 and more recently continued his umpiring association as a regular attendee of our X umpires’ luncheons at Mornington.
He recalled his most memorable match was during his first year on the senior list, “ I officiated at a game where the captain-coach of one of the sides was returning from a one year suspension for attempting to strangle the umpire. I remember that game and the afters vividly.”
Bill McLennan passed away peacefully on August 24, aged 84 and is survived by his wife, Lorraine, children and 15 grandchildren.
Honorary Life Member, Eric Gabb passed away on December 30 2017 following a brief illness. Eric was 86 years young according to his wife of 61 years, Judith.
As a boundary umpire in the VFA for 11 years Eric reached the pinnacle when he umpired the 1955 VFA grand final. He was inducted as a life member of that association in 1961.
Upon his retirement Eric became a trainer for his good mate and fellow boundary umpire, Ken Mitchell who was promoted to the VFL panel in 1962 and umpired there until he retired in 1967.
When Ken retired Eric joined the VFL trainers panel in 1968 until his retirement in 1991. Eric’s last game was the 1991 Grand Final at Waverley Park.
Eric worked his magic on many an umpire in his 30 years as a trainer. Such was the esteem in which he and his skills were held that he was made an honorary life member of the VFLUA in 1985.
Dr Geoff Miles
The association’s honorary doctor for over 33 years, Dr. Geoffrey Miles passed away on 22 September 2019 aged 90.
Dr. Miles was appointed by the Executive Committee of the VFLUA in 1954 to act as the association’s honorary physician. This was three years after his qualification gained from the University of Melbourne.
He continued his honorary service to the association until his retirement from the position in 1987. Dr Miles was appointed to the position because the VFL did not offer our umpires of the time this type of support.
Made an Honorary Life Member of the AFLUA in 1973 for his outstanding services to umpiring, his son Brad has told us that his father was very proud of his life membership and his association with our umpires.
Noel Martin Beha was born on 17 July 1941 and grew up in West Coburg. He played football with Coburg FC (VFA- Thirds).
Beginning umpiring in 1960 with the VFA he transferred to the VFL Reserve Grade from 1961-63 and in 1964 was promoted to the VFL senior list
Between 1964 And 1970 he umpired 99 VCFL and 3 Metropolitan matches. His only final was in his last year, the 1970 Coreen Football League Second Semi-final at Urana.
After retiring from the VFL Noel moved to Tasmania where he also umpired for a number of years.
Noel Beha passed away on 23 March 2019.
The eldest of three brothers who were VFLUA members Kenneth James Gibb passed away on 4 November 2018, aged 88.
Born on 28 August 1930 he grew up in Bunyip, Ascot Vale and Kensington with brothers Ray and Robert. A keen footballer he played with Moonee Stars of the Melbourne Boys League The high point of his career was kicking 4 goals 11 behinds at centre-half forward in their 1945 U16 premiership. He later played with Holy Rosary-Kensington (YCW) before turning to field umpiring with the VFL Second Eighteens in 1952.
Five seasons in the Second Eighteens competitions led to promotion to the VFL list in 1957. During the next six years he umpired 98 VCFL and 8 Metropolitan matches before returning the now Reserve Grade between 1963-68 and finally the Eastern Suburban Churches from 1969-80. In his latter years at ESC he was also an umpire observer a role he later undertook for the VFA
Observer Eastern Suburban Churches 1975-80, Observer VFA at Mordialloc.
Bruce Noel Haycraft umpired for a single season on the VFL senior list. He had been promoted from the second eighteens where he had begun umpiring in 1947. In 1952 he umpired 14 VCFL matches before joining the VFLUA in 1953 but taking a leave of absence from which he chose not to return.
John Campbell Malcolm began umpiring with the VFL Reserve Grade in 1961 and was promoted to the VFL senior list the following year. Between 1962-65 umpired 52 VCFL and 2 Metropolitan matches. His only final was the 1964 Alberton reserves second-semi final between Fish Creek and Welshpool at Toora.
Born in Birchip on 6 December 1937 John passed away on 15 May 2019, aged 81.