Umpire and Administrator Pass

This article concerns a former Sydney umpire, Ian Sonnemann and was written as a piece in the 1982 VFL Umpires’ Association Newsletter and sent into us by Society member, Chris Huon.  Ian died last year.

“Commitment and Dedication would best describe Ian “The Gent” Sonnemann. In addition to his twenty years of umpiring, Ian has been banking on the Wales for some twenty-six years and has now reached the Position of Assistant Manager of the Personnel Department.

Four interstate transfers in his employment have led lan’s umpiring career into three States and five umpiring associations. Ian’s umpiring career began in 1953 with the Amateurs after having played the game for seven years. His Playing days included the Ovens & King, Wangaratta Junior League, Tallangatta League, Sunday Unregistered League, a run with the Richmond Football Club, Sandringham and finally Power House in the Amateurs.

A transfer in employment in 1965 to Canberra saw Ian join the Canberra Australian Football League Umpires. In 1967 he became President of the Association.

Ian at umpire training 1973

Another transfer in 1967 saw Ian back in Melbourne where he joined the V.F.L. Senior list in 1968. He confronted the Board at Harrison House and in 1969 was promoted to the Seniors Intermediate Squad at Royal Park. However Ian’s top priority was his work and so in 1969 another transfer with the Wales found Ian in Sydney where he joined the N.S.W. Australian Football League Umpires from 1970 to 1973. These were the most successful years. Seven finals including the Grand Final in 1972 between Western Suburbs and East Sydney and the interstate game between Qld and N.S.W. are the highlights of Ian’s career.

Yet another transfer in 1973 found Ian back in Melbourne. A brief season with the V.F.A. and Ian was back with the V.F.L.U.A. in 1975. Ian claims the major difference he noted in his six year absence was the large number of new faces. Ian has trained at Caulfield since 1975 and has continued the track’s reputation by umpiring four V.C.F.L. Finals.

However, after twenty years of umpiring, 147 V.C.F.L. games, the oldest running veteran at the age of 41 years has had his moments.

In 1973 Ian was appointed to the Trumper Oval for the Grand Final replay, an honour for the previous year’s Grand Final Umpire. However confronting Ian as he approached the changing rooms was the largest banner of all – EAST vs SONNEMANN. Even the local bookies refused bets. The result?…..Sonnemann won again.

The mild-mannered, unflappable, conservative gentleman has also not been beyond:

– Fisticuffs with local goal umpires at Gunbower, “Chicken” vs Sonnemann, saved by George Lamont.

– Inebriation in 1976 on the Tatars trip with George Lamont and Merv Hindson.

– Missing trains at Keith.

– Hitchhiking home from Benalla.

– Raiding quince trees in the Wimmera.

– Assisting drunks at Korumburra.

– Gate-crashing the home of the Kootamundra (sic?) Secretary at 2.30 Sunday morning.

But who could blame the gentleman who trained in the company of Hafey, Brown, Bennet, Leggett, Gale and Co. in the late Caulfield group.

lan realizes his innings is coming to an end. His final ambitions are to complete his 150th V.C.F.L. game and his 10 years’ service with the V.P.L.U.A. When the day of reckoning finally comes, Ian is looking forward to spending more time with his lovely wife Ann and three year o1d son Mark. Perhaps a touch of gardening, lawn bowls and a hit of tennis. An evening at the Burwood residence is all that is required to experience the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Sonnemann family – a touch of the country air.”

Another who was particularly involved in the administration of the NSW Australian Football League in the late 1970s was Dorelle Isaac nee Hyman who passed away on November 15, 2019, age 76 years.

Dorelle was the Secretary of the league in 1977-78. She worked in a volunteer capacity when the then league Secretary was no longer required then eventually put on the payroll. She held that position she held until her Marriage in November 1977.  Her previous employment was the Private Secretary to Robert Clyde Packer, the Joint Managing Director of the Australian Consolidated Press and the Channel Nine Network, this proved invaluable as she had connections with the journalists and Producers.