Over a career that spanned the VFA, the VFL and the Western Border Football League, Eric Brewer OAM made a large contribution to Australian football and later to the community.
Eric William Brewer was born on 10 April 1930, and his early years were spent in West Preston and northern suburbs of Melbourne. A keen sportsman, he played football with Preston Technical School, Preston Swimmers and Preston Football Club (VFA). He was also involved in swimming and lifesaving with Preston Swimmers Club. Later he would continue his swimming, and add tennis and hockey to his involvements.
When his playing days finished in 1950, Eric took up umpiring in the VFA from 1951. He debuted in the seniors at Oakleigh in Round 5, 1954, and remained there for almost every round of the 1954-1956 seasons.
This 65-senior match experience saw him by-pass the VFL Reserve Grade and join the VFL senior list in 1958. Promoted to the reserves in 1959, he impressed and made his debut in the VFL seniors at the Western Oval in Round 1 1960, earning Heritage No. 230.
Over the next two seasons, he umpired 11 premiership and one night series matches. When work as a policeman took him to the country in 1963, he had also umpired 189 VCFL matches, including 11 grand finals.
While in the country, he umpired with the Western Border FL and was also advisor there in 1963 and 1964, before returning to Melbourne and re-joining the VFA. He reached the peak when he umpired the 1969 VFA First Division Grand Final.
Returning to the VFL, he joined the Reserve Grade as a field umpire before taking up the flags in 1975. Promoted to the senior list as a goal umpire, he was appointed to his first match in Round 2, 1977, and received a second heritage No. 170. Retiring at age 50 following the 1980 season, he had added another 63 VFL premiership and three Night Series matches to his senior total.
Eric was at the centre of a sensational finish at Arden Street in 1978. The result hinged on a post-siren shot from St Kilda ruck-rover, Rob Elliot, snatching a memorable victory. Incensed North fans claimed not only was the ball touched but it went through the behinds. Eric was adamant, the goal stood and he and Ted Johnson were escorted off the field through a mob by 14 of Eric’s police colleagues.
A recipient of VFLUA life membership in 1969, Eric also received an Order of Australia Medal in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday honours list. This was primarily for service to local government, and to the community during his retirement years at Benalla.
Two of Eric’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps. Graham and Alan were both senior VFA umpires, with Alan also umpiring at AFL level in 1990.
Eric passed away peacefully on 16 October 2022, aged 92.
Article written by: David Flegg AM