HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Grant Gordon VERNON
The expansion of the VFL competition in 1987 ushered in an era of extraordinary change in Australian Rules Football. All levels and departments of the game were impacted and the prodigious talents of umpire Grant Vernon enabled him to not only establish landmark and longstanding umpiring records but more importantly, to pave the way for non-Victorian umpires and play a key role in ironing out the extraordinary challenges and difficulties faced by non Victorians in the creation of a national umpiring panel.
Grant Vernon joined the WAFL umpiring panel as a teenager and made his league debut as a field umpire at Perth Oval on 10th August 1985 at the age of 20. With the two field umpire system then in vogue he shared duties with David Johnson in front of a crowd of nearly 5000 as West Perth defeated East Perth by 21 points. After a full season in 1986 and 22 league games in total, his talent was recognised with appointment to his first final – the first semi in which Perth comfortably defeated Claremont.
With the admission of two new teams into the VFL in 1987, it was decided that umpires from all State League panels should be considered for selection to officiate in the expanded competition. Of all the umpires from the State League Panels who were considered, Vernon was the youngest and least experienced but his great talent saw him become the first non-Victorian to be selected and with 7 matches in 1987 he was the only non-Victorian selected to officiate in VFL games that season.
Thereafter and despite draconian travel demands and relatively primitive communication systems for coaching and feedback, Grant Vernon went from strength to strength and was the first non-Victorian to achieve all milestones at the national level. He officiated in 10 AFL finals as well as 11 WAFL finals, 4 State of Origin matches and was emergency field umpire for the 1996 AFL Grand Final. Today, 14 years after his retirement, he still holds the record for the most number of AFL games umpired by a non-Victorian with 203 league games. Although umpiring exclusively at AFL level for several seasons in the 1990’s, Vernon remained a vital member of the WAFL panel and his final league game at Fremantle Oval on 1st August 1998 came three seasons after the introduction of a third field umpire and 14 seasons after he commenced at the top level. His final tally of 313 senior games had surpassed the long standing record of Ray Montgomery and was only recently surpassed in turn by Craig Hendrie whose AFL career was significantly shorter than that of Vernon.
In addition to his on field achievements, Grant Vernon made a significant contribution off the field. He served on the committee of the WANFL Umpires Association for a number of years and was President in 1993. In keeping with his other pioneering achievements he was the first non-Victorian to be elected to a senior position within the AFL Umpires Association, serving as President in 1995 and as a member of the Executive Committee in 1992 and 1994. He is a Life Member of both the WANFLUA and the AFLUA and was inducted into the WANFLUA Hall of Fame in 2000.
After a quarter of a century of the national competition, Grant Vernon stands alone as the most successful non-Victorian field umpire. His sustained professional level of performance and contribution to field umpiring see him become a worthy fifth umpiring member of the West Australian Football Hall of Fame.