It must be hard following your parent into the same sporting field, burdened with the expectation to equal, if not better, your parent’s achievements. My next ‘Where are they Now’, Graham Eric Brewer, is just that case. His father Eric OAM succeeded in all aspects of Umpiring, as well as his working life. Eric Umpired 65 VFA games field, 12 VFL games, 50 Reserve grade games, before moving over to the Goals where he umpired 63 VFL games before his compulsory retirement at the age of 50 years.

            Born to Eric (Dec) & Fay (Dec) Brewer in Melbourne at the Queen Victoria Hospital, Graham Eric ‘Half Can’ Brewer was born three minutes before his twin brother Alan on the 2nd April 1953. The family, with younger sister Jill, grew up in Coburg, Preston, and then Bulleen. From 1959 to 1964 Graham attended the Bellevue Primary School Nth Balwyn where he graduated and moved on to the Templestowe High School from 1965 to 1970.

It was in the Bulleen area that Graham began his football career. He joined the Bulleen Presbyterian Methodist Football Club and, whilst he struggled to play a regular game, Graham also took to playing Tennis with brother Alan as captain, and his Koonarra Tennis Club won the Under 16 Pennant Premiership.  During the summer months he, like most youngsters, played cricket where he was successful in winning many bowling awards. Graham was the Warnie of the Bulleen Cricket Club, playing in the A2 division at the age of 16 years. His best bowling figures were 7/26 against the eventual premiers in 1981.

            In 1965, Graham decided that he would help the club Bulleen Presbyterian Methodists by running the boundary each week, earning 10 bob to share with brother Alan.  This continued for three years where, having caught the boundary umpiring bug, he decided to give the Victorian Football Association a try and joined the VFA in 1969 as a Boundary Umpire. It was during this time that the Brewer family officiated in one of the first televised games on Chanel 0 at Preston, with Father Eric the field umpire and brothers Graham and Alan as 15yo boundary umpires. After three years with the VFA, in 1972 Graham believed that he was performing well enough to umpire at a higher level and joined the Victorian Football League Reserve Grade, running the boundary for two years. On the Reserve Grade list Graham got involved in the Umpires Association and nominated for the Social Committee where he was elected and served for four years.

            The early 70’s saw Graham with several mates travel around Australia in Grahams’ Kombi vans. Now that would be an experience for anyone to take on, with many stories that would remain on that trip.

            In 1974 Graham applied for a position as a Property Valuer with the Heidelberg Council was successful in obtaining that position which meant he attended RMIT from 1974 until 1986 studying initial property valuations then two post graduate courses. In 1976 Graham was Dux of Statistics at the RMIT.

            Now Graham’s father Eric OAM who had been a successful field umpire, in 1974 threw out the challenge to Graham to change over from the boundary to become a field umpire. This he completed for four years on the Reserve Grade before a promotion onto the VFL Senior List in 1978.  Whilst on the Reserve Grade in 1976 the whole Brewer family once again officiated in the same game, an Under 19 game St Kilda v. Hawthorn at Moorabbin. Father Eric was one of the goal umpires, Graham the field umpire and Alan one of the two boundary umpires. Also in 1976 Graham was appointed to a senior list game in the Alberton F.L. on July 17 where Won Wron played Devon. For those who don’t know, the Won Wron F.C. was made up mainly from prisoners from the local Prison farm. You had to wait for the bus with the boys on board before you could start the game. In 1977 it happened again where Graham helped the senior list where he was appointed to a Bellarine F.L. game: Torquay versus Newcomb.

                        1978 saw Graham officially promoted onto the senior list as a field umpire where his first game was in the Mid Murray F.L. Lake Boga v Lalbert. Over the next five years Graham gained experience travelling the country when after many good reports was appointed to his first V.F.L. Reserves grade game on the 1st May 1982. St.Kilda 24.25 defeated Carlton 16.14. Graham’s partner on the day was Mark Westgarth. After four reserve grade games Graham was sent back to the bush to gain more experience. It was stated in the Man in White that Graham was a Leggy Colt who sometimes breaks into a Canter. A true Association man Graham held the role on the Social Committee 1978/81 then in 1982 was elected Social Secretary for the VFLUA. At the end of 1982 Football season Graham decided that his best opportunity to umpire senior football would  be with the V.F.A. so he transferred over for the 1983 season. On the VFL Senior list Graham umpired 4 VFL Reserve games, 73 VCFL games which included 3 finals.

            His first game in the VFA was a Div. 2 game Box Hill 31.16 d. Berwick 11.11 his partner that day was Greg Hutchison. In 1985 Graham was awarded the second semi in Div.2 at the Junction oval in front of a crowd of 9014,  where Brunswick 25.18 d. Oakleigh 16.12 his partner was Graeme Casey. His tally of games in the VFA being 81 senior games in the field. Once again Graham became involved in the Umpires Association where he served for six  years as Social Secretary.  After six years with the VFA and following a major car accident which forced him from being a field umpire, Graham decided to take on Goal Umpiring.  He transferred back to the VFL Reserve Grade in 1990 to pursue a Goal Umpiring career.

            It was during this time that Graham applied for a position with the National Australia Bank as Executive Director & Head of Property Australasia and later at Orchard Funds Management, received the appointment and served the bank and Orchard from 1995 until 2007.  Over the years whilst continuing to umpire Graham has had extensive personal and business travel and in 1989 a Worldwide Business trip to Asia, Europe and the USA.

            As the VFL and the VFA had amalgamated Graham’s first game back with the VFLRG in the goals was to be appointed to a VFA game Brunswick versus Sandringham. With the amalgamation, the AFL formed a secondary list of Umpires called the Victorian State Football League. On this list Umpires would officiate in AFL Reserve grade games, AFL Under 19, and Victorian Football Association games. Over the next four years Graham rotated through all these divisions as a goal umpire.  He was appointed to four finals in those years, two in the Under 19’s and two in the Reserve Grade, but never received the call to be promoted into AFL ranks. So at the end of 1993 season Graham decided to call it quits and retire from Umpiring.

His last game in the goals at V.F.L. Park Waverley, was the second semi-final in the State League. North Melbourne 16.15 d. Footscray 15.15, partnered by Peter Kelly. He was awarded a Life

Father Eric presents Graham his Hall of Fame induction certificate.

Membership of the VFUA in 1993 with his tally of games being 41 Reserve, 24 TAC Nab and  23 VFA games in the Goals. Graham with his services to umpiring was awarded Life membership of the AFLUA in 2008, presented by his father Eric OAM.

            1998 saw Graham conduct a Wine Business trip to the U.S.A. and has had a lot of personal travel, numerous ocean cruises and in 2023 a European river cruise. He has held notable positions in the Investment & Property Industry, being Senior Vice President, Property Council of Australia 1998-2000, Councillor Australian Property Institute 1992-1996 & 2012-2014.  Was elected Chairman Property Congress with 1500 delegates at Crown Melbourne in 1999 and Chairman Municipal Group of Valuers Victoria 2012 -2014 and Executive Member 2012 – 2021.

             He tells me his most embarrassing moment in umpiring came when umpiring in the VFA at Port Melbourne and a spectator yelled out as the umpires were entering the arena… “Look the Umpire” – being Graham – “has brought his mascot” – Frank Vergona who was not that tall… this happened twice. 

            The highlight of his career was umpiring with his father Eric and Twin Brother Alan on numerous times.

            Things were moving for Graham in 2014 when he met Kerry at Marshere dance Studios in Vermont  Dancing. 3 years later Graham & Kerry married at  Yarra Valley. Today the couple have 6 children with 7 grand children.

            I normally ask my subject to name one thing about yourself that most people would not know. Graham’s reply was a career property person who has held senior industry positions in Australasia over many years. I must admit I was taken back by Graham’s profile with the number of positions he has held over the years.        

            Today Graham is employed as a Strategic Property Advisor to Local Government a position he has held since 2010.

            Lovely to chat Graham, must be getting close to retirement, good luck in the future Cheers Wizzer

 

                                                                                                Graeme Wizzer Fellows

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