‘A CHAMP OF FOOTBALL’S GOLDEN ERA……’

Fifty-nine years after he last graced the Albury Sportsground, Jack Jones is still a revered figure at Tigerland.

He’s remembered for the part he played in a Golden Era of Ovens and Murray football …..when VFL champions in their prime, were lured by attractive financial packages and the opportunity to coach in the best country competition in the land.

Billy Stephen vacated the job as Fitzroy’s playing-coach to take over at Yarrawonga;  Bobby Rose (“Mr.Football”) rejected a rich offer from East Perth, preferring instead to throw in his lot with Wangaratta Rovers. His Collingwood team-mate Des Healey headed to Wodonga; Sturt’s dual Magarey Medallist and All-Australian, Len Fitzgerald opted to take charge at Benalla. The brilliant Jimmy Deane, also a dual winner of the Magarey, shocked South Adelaide when he moved to Myrtleford…………

And Jones, who had been a key figure in a decade of Essendon dominance, was persuaded to ‘pull up stumps’ in the big smoke and bring his growing family to the relative serenity of Albury.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

You may have heard the yarn about Jack passing through Albury one week-end late in 1954. As they hunted around for somewhere to prop for the night, he noticed a vacancy at a small  Bed & Breakfast, and suggested to his wife Mary that it might might suit them.

“It belonged to Jack Adams, who was tied up with the Albury Football Club, and recognised me straight away. Instead of staying at the B & B, he invited us to share the hospitality of  his family home.”

“The conversation naturally turned to footy, and Jack happened to mention that there was a coaching position available.”

A couple of weeks later, back home in Melbourne, he received a deputation from a couple of Albury officials. He’d already been approached by Moe, but, thanks to the contact he’d had with Jack Adams, was leaning towards Albury.

“I’d been getting the standard rate for a League player, which was, if I remember rightly, 8 quid a game. The Tigers’ offered 25 pounds per week.”

“I decided to take the job on.”…………….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Jack Jones was just eight when he tagged along with his dad, a fervent Essendon supporter, to watch Dick Reynolds make his debut against Footscray in 1934.

The dream of wearing the Red and Black was, if not already embedded in the youngster’s psyche, re-inforced from that moment on.

He played his junior footy with Ascot Vale CYMS. Perfectly-built and with plenty of pace for a lad who was a touch over 6 foot, the next step would naturally have been to Windy Hill.

But at 19 he was called up to serve in the Army, and was to spend the next 22 months exposed to the atrocities of World War II, in the jungles of New Guinea and Bougainville.

“It was outrageous, the war,” he once said. “No-one wins a bloody war. “ Of his company, 91 were killed, 197 wounded. “I was just lucky. The bullet or shrapnel just didn’t have my name on it.”

Jack had to wait another four months for a boat to take him home after peace had been declared.

He walked straight into Essendon’s senior line-up in 1946 and was never dropped. Versatility was his greatest asset.

In the early days he’d line up on a forward flank, then take an occasional ‘chop-out’ in the ruck. But he could be swung into key positions and shine with his high marking and long kicking. And with his pace, he was even used on a wing.

So the dream that began to form all those years ago, came to fruition when he ran out behind his coach, hero and triple Brownlow Medallist Dick Reynolds, in the 1946 Grand Final.

Jack was a reserve in that Premiership side, but was in the familiar role of centre half forward when Carlton’s Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon picked him up in the 1947 decider.

The Bombers had 30 shots to the Blues’ 21, and were pipped by a point.

Essendon famously kicked 7.27 in the 1948 Grand Final, to dramatically tie with Melbourne (10.9). Spearhead Bill Brittingham, with 2.12, shouldered some of the blame for their woeful inaccuracy, but the Bombers just couldn’t find the big sticks.

The Demons comfortably won the replay.

Jack had a front row seat to the ‘John Coleman Show’ for the next few years. The arrival of the champion full forward put the icing on the cake, as the brilliant Bombers clinched the 1949 and ‘50 flags. And his absence, through suspension, for the ‘51 Grand Final, is blamed for their 11-point loss to Geelong.

After 175 games  (133 of those consecutive), Jack Jones pulled down the curtain on his storied VFL career at the end of the 1954 season. He’d played in seven Grand Finals, for three flags, was adjudged Essendon’s best utility player in 1946, ‘47, ‘49 and ‘54, and the Best Clubman of 1953.

He had, one report said ‘….thrilled supporters with his marking and  open play on the half forward line, and had been one of the fastest big men in the game, as well as taking a fair share of the ruckwork………..’

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Jack shifted his family to Albury early in 1955, and landed a job at Rupert Hines’ Butchery, opposite the Albion Hotel.

The Tigers, under their new leader (wearing the number 24 that he’d made famous at Essendon, and the number of his army battalion) were tipped to be the big improvers. But after a solid opening-round win, they dropped their next five matches, to be in dire straits.

“I’d been playing at centre half back, but the selectors suggested I shift to centre half forward,” Jack recalls. “It was one of the moves that worked. We won 10 of the next 12 games.”

“We needed to win the last game and rely on another couple of results going our way to sneak into the finals, but it wasn’t to be.”  ( Albury belted eventual runners-up, Wangaratta by 65 points, yet finished outside the ‘four’, with a percentage of 146.3, by far the best in the competition.)

“We had a very good side. I reckon we could have won it had we got in,” he says.

But there were to be no hiccups the following year. They lost just two games, en route to dismantling North Albury in both the second-semi and Grand Final.

It was a side that contained stars of the calibre of Lance Mann (who’d returned from Essendon), Dr.John Stoney ( a Bendigo 10,000 winner), ex-State rep Jimmy Robison, Leon Pain, Keith Thomas, and big ruckmen Barry Takle and John Ziebarth.

At 18, David Tighe was in his football infancy, and lined up on the flank, alongside Jones. He witnessed at first-hand the influence that he could have on a game.

“He was a prolific mark – nearly unbeatable in the air up here. I saw Jack mark six consecutive kick-outs from Neil Currie (the long-kicking Myrtleford full back), one day. He sent each one of them over his head. I think he ended up with seven goals for the game.”

“Jack was not only a big playing influence . He was a great leader; an outstanding  person,” David recalls.

Jones saved some of his finest football for the big occasions, and was the Tigers’ best in the two lead-up finals which preceded their 1957 Grand Final clash with Wangaratta.

It was a flag they should have won. Leading by 27 points at three quarter-time, the margin had been whittled down to less than a kick with a minute remaining.

“The fellah we had tagging Lance Oswald had done a great job – had kept him to three kicks for the day. Suddenly Oswald broke free and bobbed up in the pocket. He’s snapped the winning goal in the dying seconds,” Jack recalls.

Jones’s four goals in the Grand Final gave him 59 for the year. He followed up with another 49 in 1958, also finishing fifth in the Morris Medal. The season finished in disappointment, however, when Albury lost a gripping, sodden Prelim Final to Wodonga by four points.

He suffered a broken jaw mid-way through his final season with the Tigers (1959). “I wanted to get back out on the ground after a couple of weeks, but (Dr.John) Stoney wouldn’t have a bar of it, “ he says.

Jack had played 75 games and booted 171 goals in his five seasons at Albury. He played in O & M Country Championship-winning teams of 1955 and ’57.

He coached Kergunyah in 1960, then joined the Albury Umpires Board for a couple of years, before he and Mary and their growing family returned to Melbourne.

He spent 35 years with Gilbertson’s Meats, managing and doing financial planning for some of their 85 shops. That, and raising their six kids – Lynne, Peter, Brian, Tony, John and Anne-Marie – kept Jack and Mary busy.

Sons Tony and John both made an impact in football. John’s a member of the VAFA Hall of Fame, captained the Vic Amateurs and he and Tony also represented the VCFL in rep fixtures.

Jack, of course, became a familiar figure at Windy Hill during his retirement years, conducting guided tours for supporters and acting as an Ambassador for the Club.

He doesn’t do so much of that now. After all, he turned 93 on Cup Day last year, but he still attends all of the Bombers’ matches in Melbourne. And he wouldn’t dream of missing an Anzac Day march, to honour his fallen, and long departed Army comrades.

He and Mary celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last week, and were doted on by their 11 grandkids and 6 (soon to be 8) great-grandkids.

Colin Joss, he says, offered to fly him up for an Albury function a couple of years ago, but it clashed with something he’d been helping out with at Essendon.

“Albury still holds a special place in my heart,” says this  Tiger Team of the Century captain, Bomber Hall of Famer and true Legend of the game…………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“WATCH THE BOMBERS FLY UP..UP…”

By Guest Blogger: Simone Kerwin:

 

IT’S certainly been a tough few years to be a Bombers supporter – especially for the younger breed.

Far from the days when I exerted my independence as a nine year old by jumping on the Essendon bandwagon as they marched towards back-to-back premiership glory, my kids have done some hard yards.

While I proudly wore my jumper with Timmy Watson’s 32 on the back, and swapped footy cards at playtime with few snide remarks about my team, the kids have had to grow a thicker skin than most footy-loving youngsters.

With parents who both view the world in black and red, and have fond memories of past flags, the kids had no hope but to follow the club too.

Their dad and I could not have foreseen what was to come as we raised loyal little Bombers, and as the supplements saga raised its ugly head – again and again, and again – we had a tough task explaining the situation to two wide-eyed primary school children.

Our little fella took his black and red footy to school one day, and returned home sadly that afternoon, saying no-one would have a kick with it because it was a ‘drug footy’.

Our daughter, perhaps the most loyal of us all, held fast to her team and held her head high through stirring from all quarters, including a couple of teachers.

You could say the experience has built their resilience, and they certainly have learnt to allow jibes at the Bombers’ expense to slide like water off a duck’s back.

I’m extremely proud of the way the kids have “stuck fat”, as Terry Daniher would say, but we’ve been hoping that once things got back on track they would have the feeling so many young Hawthorn, and now even Western Bulldogs fans, have been raised to believe is their right – the sheer joy of watching your team compete.

Even the St Kilda fans of my primary school days (when they were the brunt of jokes like ‘What has 36 legs and can’t climb a ladder?’) didn’t have to contend with their club featuring on the front and back pages of the paper for dubious reasons.

This year, we have seen the joy return to the kids’ passion for the Bombers.

They huddled in front of the telly on Saturday night to watch the match against Port Adelaide, and delighted in what they saw.

Shouts of, “Walla!” as Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti chased down opponents in the fashion to which we Bombers fans have grown accustomed, and almost took the mark of the year, and, “Joey!” as the inimitable Dons forward kicked a goal while lying on the ground, were enough to bring tears to your eyes after years of disappointment and un-footy-related drama.

The kids are looking forward to a trip to the ‘G’ for our clash with Collingwood next month, and are rapt that we’ve moved into the eight after Saturday’s game.

They read footy tipping columns and admonish those who don’t pick the Bombers, and love learning more about their heroes, like our skipper Hep, Razz, li’l Zachy Merrett, BJ, Zaka, Hurls, and of course, Jobe.

They will don their sashes and watch as we continue to see the Bombers fly up, and hopefully win a premiership flag before too long.\

 

IMG_1562.JPG

‘COCO’, THE WHISTLING GROCER……..

They called him ‘Coco’.

No-one’s sure of the derivation of the nickname; just that it seemed to fit him perfectly. In his prime he was one of Wangaratta’s outstanding sportsmen – a fellah with a combustible temperament ; easily-distinguishable by his thatch of ginger hair.

Us kids knew him as ‘Old Jim’, the effervescent man in the grocer shop which adjoined dad’s business in Murphy Street.

He probably got sick of our visits. We would ask if he’d like us to sweep the floor or clean up the cellar. The reward for our labours would be a bag of broken biscuits.

Many years later, when he was quite elderly and took an interest in our exploits on the football field, the welcome would be the same as it always was: “Hello, m’boy”……………….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Jim Boyd was tallish, agile and slightly-built and first made his mark on the sporting scene as a key position player with the Wangaratta Magpies.

He was a mere teen-ager when he played in successive Grand Finals for Wangaratta. The first of these was in 1922, when they surprised the hotly-fancied St.Patrick’s to win the Final by a goal – 7.8 to 6.8, with young Boyd a star in defence.

As was the rule in those days, if the minor premiers won the Final they clinched the flag. They had the right to challenge if defeated.

So the teams met again, in front of a large crowd at the Albury Sportsground. St.Pat’s led convincingly at three quarter-time, but the Magpies came home with a flourish, to fall short by just two points.

It was Wangaratta against the unbeaten St.Pat’s in the Final the following year. Aside from the regular rail transport, four special trains were needed to ferry fans to the big match at Corowa.

The lead had ebbed and flowed throughout the game, but the ‘Greens’ kept the pressure on their opponents and held on to win by seven points and become outright premiers for the third successive year.

Boyd had been used with good effect at either end of the ground and had become one of the team’s most reliable players. His move to Ballarat in the mid-1920’s left a hole in the Magpie line-up, but proved to be a boon for his development. He had now become an established spearhead .

Essendon saw something in ‘Coco’ and recruited him in 1927. He managed two senior games at full forward , but when he returned home to Wang the following season, his reputation as a goal-kicker was cemented.

He kicked several bags of goals, including a then club record 15 in one game and nine in another.img_1880

The Ovens and Murray hosted a near full-strength VFL representative team at the Showgrounds during the 1928 season and ‘Coco’ was named at the goal-front.

The VFL struggled to break the shackles of the persistent locals, but drew away in the closing stages to win by seven points, after trailing into time-on.

Geelong’s ‘Jocka’ Todd, renowned as the outstanding full back of the day, was unable to contain the elusive Boyd, who kicked five goals and was named among the O & M’s best players.

Jim worked in the grocery section at Callander’s and ultimately began his own licensed grocery over the road.

Whereas you’ll now find soothing music emanating from many of the stores in Wangaratta’s central business precinct, 60 years ago it was ‘Coco’s’ cheery whistle which floated down the footpaths – a sort of serenade of a Pied Piper.

He hung up his footy boots in the early 30’s and turned his hand to golf, at which he was a proficient low-handicapper.

He then became an enthusiastic bowler and was, in fact, Wangaratta Bowls Club’s champion in 1955/56. He was runner-up three times and probably suffered from being in the shadow of that Wangaratta legend – Bill Hickey.

It was in a championship round in the early fifties, that he earned some notoriety, as the eyes of everyone on the links were riveted upon him.

Aggravated by an opponent who was continually ‘stalling’, the well-known Boyd temper had reached boiling point.

He was incensed by this unsportsmanlike act, which invoked the full force of his fiery disposition. He proceeded to ‘flatten’ his foe, bringing down a 12-month suspension upon his head and shrouding the Bowls Club in controversy.

‘Coco’ eventually overcame this indignity and became an inter-town stalwart for many years, skipping the Wangaratta pennant team and combining with his great mates, Alf Goldsworthy and Henry Howell in some memorable triumphs.

On a hot day he would appear at the bowling greens with his tender, ruddy skin bespattered with sun cream; a towel wrapped around his hat,  giving him the appearance of a desert sheik – and a rather stern one at that.

Along with Bill Hickey and Reg Hennessey, ‘Coco’ was among Wangaratta’s finest exponents of billiards, when it was a highly-popular local sport.

And you knew you had a fair-dinkum battle on your hands when his steely gaze met you across the green felt of the table. He won 11 Wangaratta Club championships and was the toughest of opponents.

Someone recalled him bringing a can of oil on championship nights, to lubricate the doors, so that they wouldn’t squeak and upset his concentration during a game.

‘Coco’ remained an avid football follower and would negotiate the short journey from his house, on the corner of Grey and Templeton Streets, to watch the Magpies or the Rovers play.

With a brisk gait, and flourishing a tripod walking stick, he became a familiar figure and, as usual the greeting was : “Hello m’boy.”

Eventually his knees gave way and he would get a lift down to the games.

As his health deteriorated there were a few hospital stays. On one visit an old sportsman recalls him giving the nurses a hard time, then apologising profusely for his behaviour.

It was the renowned Boyd temper, which had always been capable of erupting during his sporting career, again coming to the fore.

‘Coco’ Boyd, another of Wangaratta’s cavalcade of sporting personalities, was 92 when he passed away.