James Paterson was born in South Townsville on the 31st August, 1934. South Townsville is actually east of the city centre and the two are separated by Ross Creek. The suburb’s northern and eastern boundaries are the Pacific Ocean, and as a boy, saltwater used to come on to Jim’s property when there were king tides. A lot of the area around his home was mudflats, and he along with the rest of the students at South Townsville State School were called ‘mud-pickers’ by the rest of Townsville. When Jim walked to school through the mudflats with his brother, Jack, who was four years older, they had to pick all of the mud off their feet before going into class – none of the kids wore shoes to school. The brothers got along well together, despite the age difference.
In many ways, Jim had a tough childhood. Both of his parents passed away before he was five years old due to illness and he had to go and live with his very strict grandparents. South Townsville was a working-man’s, working-class suburb and there was very little money to go around. When he first started playing football in primary school he played in bare feet, just like the other boys. No-one had any money spare for anything as luxurious as football boots. He wasn’t overly interested in his studies and didn’t go past primary school. But he did enjoy the outdoors. Jim often used to go swimming, fishing and crabbing with his mates, and also got into life-saving. In addition to his love of the water, he had a go at all the available sports: hockey, cricket, soccer – and rugby league.
His home was within a stone’s throw from Victoria Park, named after Queen Victoria and home ground of the South Townsville rugby league team. Souths had the honour of playing in the first rugby league match ever played in Townsville, on the 26th March, 1914, and was one of four teams in the local competition, along with Brothers, Centrals and WEAs (West End Athletes). The close proximity of the club, along with his interest in the Foley Shield (See Special Feature) from an early age, made it almost a foregone conclusion that Jim would join South Townsville. One of Arch Foley’s sons, Roy, was one of Jim’s early coaches. He felt right at home, as he got to know all the players and most of the officials. He was 18 when he was first picked for the seniors in 1953, and played his first year at five-eighth. When his brother made the team and became the five-eighth, Jim moved to lock.
Jim’s first appearance for North Queensland was in 1954 in Rockhampton during the Queensland team trials, but he made the team under very unusual circumstances. Before the game in Rockhampton, there was rather a ‘dramatic’ incident leading up to a match at the Townsville Sports Reserve. The dressing room at the Reserve was under the grandstand and was extremely small. Before a game, players were flat out finding a hook to hang their clothes on and when there were 17 players all trying to get ready it was bursting at the seams. On this particular day there was a box on the floor with a glass top, covered in jerseys. One of the players, in a bid to get himself a little more space, put his foot on the box, thinking it was safe to do so. Much to his embarrassment, he smashed the glass top, badly cutting his foot and leg in the process. This player had been picked for North Queensland, but as he was now unavailable, Jim was asked to play. Jim felt a bit sorry for the guy, but was pleased to get his first representative game. Jim couldn’t participate in any more trial games that year because of his army commitments.
In 1955, Jim made a decision that was surprising to many people in the North when he decided to join the Toowoomba competition. Jim had a good mate in Toowoomba by the name of Ronny Teys. Ronny was the incumbent Queensland lock and had played 17 times for Toowoomba in the Bulimba Cup between 1950 and 1954. He had decided to go to Ingham to coach Herbert River in the Foley Shield in 1955 and said to Jim, ‘Why don’t you come to Toowoomba and take my spot and then I won’t have to worry about leaving’. Jim felt the standard of the Bulimba Cup was a bit higher than the Foley Shield, due to all the internationals that played in the competition. Ronny played for Toowoomba Valleys, so Jim replaced him at lock.
Toowoomba Valleys formed in 1919 and trained at the Lindsay Street Oval. The club has a distinguished history, having more representation in Bulimba Cup teams than any other Toowoomba club. The club has produced 24 internationals, the first being E S Brown, who was a Kangaroo in 1921-22. Other famous Valleys internationals up until 1955 include Herb Steinohrt, Vic Armbruster and Eddie Brosnan. Valleys players in the Toowoomba Bulimba Cup winning sides of 1955-1956 (the time Jim was in Toowoomba) were Neil Teys (1955) and Brian Jones (1956). Neil played two matches for Queensland and nine games for Toowoomba, while Brian represented Toowoomba 10 times and Queensland on six occasions.
The coach, Herb Steinohrt, originally from Pittsworth, was a member of the famous undefeated 1924-1925 Toowoomba Clydesdales and has the honour of representing Queensland 51 times, more than any other player. He played for Queensland in 30 consecutive games, which at the time he played was a record. He played in nine tests and captained both Queensland and Australia, the latter on three occasions. The main way in which Steinohrt helped Jim with his game was with learning how to be a better defender. Jim always made it a point to listen carefully to what his coaches had to say. Herb was a more instinctive coach than Duncan Thompson, the Toowoomba Bulimba Cup coach. He dealt with things at the time they were happening rather than doing a lot of planning.
During the 1950s, Sydney clubs would regularly come to Toowoomba to play matches. Due to a regular team member being unavailable, Jim had the opportunity to play for Toowoomba against Balmain. Played at the Toowoomba Athletic Oval, the home team ran out convincing winners 31-12. Jim played a very good game, showing an ability to break through the line with attacking runs. On one of these runs, Robert Buckley from All Whites backed up and scored a try. This gave Toowoomba a lead of 15 points to 2 halfway through the second half. A short time later, Jim scored a try himself. Balmain scored 10 points late against a tiring Toowoomba defence, but the damage had already been done. In another game against North Sydney he again performed well, scoring a try and displaying his abilities both in offence and defence.
Jim had a hard time of it in Toowoomba. He found it difficult to get his body to acclimatise to the weather. He had a lot of trouble with his muscles because of the cold, even tearing a leg muscle during a particularly prolonged cold snap. He also dislocated his elbow and this put him out for eight weeks in his second season. These two injuries were the most serious of his career. Certainly, he did build a good reputation for himself, winning two Valleys awards – the Mrs D Teys Memorial Cup for Best Senior Player and the trophy for best forward. However, he was only ever a fringe representative player. Given the talent available in Toowoomba at the time, and the obstacles he had to overcome, this is not surprising. At one stage he was an emergency for the Toowoomba Bulimba Cup team and made it on to the field for one match when a regular pulled out, but he couldn’t reach his potential during his two-year stay. Jim decided the best course of action was to return to Townsville and did so halfway through the season, as he was ruled out of playing football for the rest of 1956.
Back in Townsville he decided to focus on regaining full fitness. He started training in January, long before official club training, running around the streets about two miles at a time. Sometimes it would be pelting down rain because it was the summer months. He resumed his membership of the Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club, where as a junior he had taken out the Northern Belt Title. Training nights for games in North Queensland were unique in the rugby league world. Sometimes, it rained for days, and you would have to practise on a field covered in two inches of water. He was one of the strongest and toughest young forwards in the game, yet he never picked up a pair of dumbbells in his life – he relied on natural strength, along with the ‘workouts’ he received while at work.
Almost all the jobs he had were physical in nature that helped him to keep in shape and he had several different kinds over the course of his career. He worked in a Townsville fabrication shop; he bent steel pipes at the Stuart and Lloyds mill; he even stacked sugar bags for a time. While in Toowoomba he worked in the grain industry. He used to drive tractors out on farms harvesting crops. He didn’t particularly like any of his jobs during his playing career. The longest he ever stayed with an employer was two or three years. He never got sacked, but sometimes just wanted to move on. His first comment in any job interview was that he was going to need time off for certain periods to play, and most of his employers were understanding when he requested holidays for representative f ootball and tours.
In North Queensland, the Foley Shield was the symbol of rugby league supremacy, named after Arch Foley and played for since 1948. The winner of the Southern Division and Northern Division played in the final in September, which was always held at the Townsville Sports Reserve. When you played a game in Tully, Babinda or Innisfail it was often mud and slush. It was very hard to keep your footing. Somebody would hit you with a hard tackle and you could slide along the ground for 20 feet. Some of the ‘cane cockies’ were very tough men. They worked hard and their bodies were like stone. Toughness and courage were the traits that Jim respected most. He thought centres Ronny Tate and Alan Gil were courageous because they were only half the size of some of the men they were playing against, yet they would invariably go up and stop their man. He was also impressed with Danny Clifford and Bill Wilson. Clifford, a cane-cutter, was a very hard man to tackle – he would stop you in your tracks. Billy Wilson, a front-rower playing at 13 stone against blokes 16 stone or more, proved his toughness week in week out.
Although Jim had made his first Foley Shield appearance in 1953, it wasn’t until 1957 that he really made his mark in the competition. During this season Jim made a lot of ground just rumbling straight up the middle, scoring and setting up tries, although he was known to produce a clever side-step from time to time. He would often take it upon himself to shoulder the responsibility of taking a lot of the hit-ups when there were gruelling battles in the forwards. He had speed in attack, backed up well, and could off-load when in a tackle with several defenders. He worked extremely hard around the rucks, always looking for holes in the defence. His tackling and cover defence were ferocious. He also showed that he had a football brain, often being able to place himself in the right place at the right time. By the end of 1957, Jim was one of the premier forwards in the competition, justifying comments made by Duncan Thompson and Herb Steinohrt while he was in Toowoomba – that he had the potential to be one of the best forwards in Australia.
The 1957 Foley Shield final opponents were predictable. For three years Townsville had been the best southern team and Cairns the best northern one. In the two previous finals the teams had won the trophy once each, so the tie-breaker was on. Cairns was playing in its fifth consecutive final. The captain of Cairns was Hugh Kelly, who was the current Queensland lock. Len Blaik, with the very interesting nickname of ‘Sure Fingers’, was the captain of Townsville, who had gone undefeated throughout the season under the guidance of first-year coach Felix Creedy. Six of the starting 13 players in the Townsville team played for North Queensland that year. The Brisbane referee Col Wright was chosen to officiate in the match. Approximately 5500 fans turned up at the ground.
For the first 15 minutes of the match Townsville had all the possession and momentum. They were given several penalties, and even though they failed to score, missing some penalty kicks, Cairns used up a lot of energy in defence. Finally, after 20 minutes, the deadlock was broken, with Townsville front-rower Jack Casey storming the line, with four opposition defenders unable to prevent him scoring. Townsville led at the half-time break by seven points to nil. In the second half, Jim really started to hit his stride. He cut through the defence at speed to set up a try for second-rower Keith Martin and then a few minutes later backed up Casey and Mulgrew to score a try himself. The speedy Townsville winger Albert Roberts scored three tries in the half and Townsville ran out convincing winners, 38 to 15, the biggest winning margin ever for a Foley Shield final. The Cairns side had been completely outclassed.
1958 was Jim’s breakout year. His excellent form continued from the previous season and he was a shoo-in for the Queensland trials. When he ran out for Combined Country against the might of South Queensland he was the player of the game. His fend, the ability to slip tackles and his off-loads were starting to draw comparisons with Duncan Hall. The Country team ran out deserved winners 31 to 21. Jim made the Queensland team in the final trial against The Rest as a reserve. When John Eaton’s leg was broken, Jim had the opportunity to go on as his replacement. However, in a rather comical twist, he was unable to because Paul Pyers was wearing one of his boots. The winger from Mackay had damaged a boot and Jim had generously given him his own, unfortunately making himself ‘unavailable’. However, the next Saturday justice prevailed and he was chosen for his first interstate match. Although Queensland lost against the southerners, Jim acquitted himself well on debut. In those days, if you won the game you got paid £22/10/- and if you lost the game, you got £18/10/-. Unfortunately for Jim and his Maroon teammates, they had to be satisfied with the latter every game that year.
Jim’s club, Townsville Souths, where he was captain-coach, held a special presentation night to honour him for selection in the Queensland team. The night was attended by Arch Foley and Townsville Rugby League president Ben Bloom. Bloom called him an honest footballer who was an inspiration for young Townsville footballers. He also said his selection for his State was an honour for the region and that Paterson should be chosen for the next Kangaroo tour. Jim responded with, ‘I only hope I can get the Australian blazer for Souths.’ Jim played so well for Queensland that at the end of the representative season he was awarded the 1958 J G Stephenson Memorial Trophy for being the most serviceable Queensland player, and was presented with the award by NQRL president Jack Tracey. It was a very unusual occurrence that a player won Queensland’s most prestigious award in his first representative season.
There were reports that Jim just missed out on selection for the Australian Test team against Great Britain – in fact, some southern judges had him pencilled in and were surprised when he was overlooked. Sydney clubs became very interested in the gun lock, and started to make overtures about acquiring his services. A sign of just what kind of reputation he had in Sydney was that the strongest offer came from the 1958 premiers, St George. With players like Reg Gasnier, Eddie Lumsden, Brian Clay, Harry Bath, Ken Kearney and Norm Provan, they were certainly not short of talent. Jim had a mate called Charlie Montgomery who had played for St George many years ago. He wanted Jim to go and play for the Dragons and tried to arrange for him to go to Sydney. Townsville Souths raised a considerable amount of money for him to stay. He did give it some thought, but in the end, it wasn’t the money that swayed him. He hadn’t travelled much at that stage, he was newly married and felt some loyalty to Queensland, so he decided to stay.
In the 1959 Queensland selection trials, North Queensland insisted that they be given an opportunity to play against Brisbane in addition to the usual trial games. They asserted that they were a better team and wanted the chance to prove it. Jim loved nothing better than beating Brisbane, and he got his wish when the northerners defeated the Bulimba Cup champions 36 to 17. Jim won £10 as the best forward on the field – he was everywhere in attack and defence. Then when North Queensland played South Queensland he was part of one of the most entertaining games ever seen in Brisbane. Due to the fact that most of the players in the match had played six games in 14 days, the defensive effort on both sides was weak at best. North Queensland players were even fed with oxygen at half-time. Both sides ended up scoring nine tries, with South Queensland’s Paul Pyer’s goal-kicking being the difference between the two teams. Jim was given an award for being the best North Queensland player, and by general consensus was the best forward in the trials.
When looking at his trial form, it is no surprise that Jim had his most successful representative year in his entire career in 1959. He was part of the Queensland team that won the interstate series for the first time in eight years, under the coaching of Clive Churchill. Jim also made his much anticipated debut for Australia, along with Dud Beattie, against New Zealand in Sydney on June 13th. It was huge news in Townsville. It seemed everyone was talking about it and fans of rugby league throughout North Queensland were very proud and wished him well. Jack Tracey commented that the whole of the North Queensland rugby league community was elated, and Ben Bloom was quoted as saying that this was the best news that North Queensland rugby league had received in years. Jim played in all three Tests and helped Australia win the series. He was then chosen for the 1959-60 Kangaroo tour. He was the third ever Townsville player to receive this honour. The two others before him were Henry ‘Frosty’ Benson and Mick Glasheen.
In the first Test against the Kiwis he was one of the key reasons why Australia was able to keep New Zealand scoreless for a large portion of the match. He and lock Johnny Raper developed an excellent understanding in defence, working in concert to help shut down the New Zealand forwards. In the second Test, Jim’s defence was of the highest standard. He was very mobile and was quick to nullify opposition raids. Australia was able to win the Test 38 to 10 and therefore the series. In the last match, which Australia lost, Jim was the best Australian forward and never gave up trying.
After the first Test, Jim celebrated the win by going out for a night on the town. When he returned to his hotel he was quite upset when he discovered that his jersey, boots and socks had been stolen, as had Barry Muir’s kit. As it was his first Australian jersey, he desperately wanted to get it back. The host, Ted Odgers, found out about the players’ predicament. He, along with former international Albert Paul did a bit of detective work, asked around about the ‘usual suspects’ and found that the missing jerseys were now in Newcastle. Albert went to visit the perpetrators and told them in no uncertain terms what would happen to them if they did not return the missing items forthwith. The jerseys were returned to the players’ hotel in very short order. After receiving his jersey, Jim flew back to Townville for his club game with Souths. The TRL president called Jim out on to the field at the Sports Reserve and congratulated him publicly on his Test debut. Jim replied that it was a great honour to represent his country.
When the players chosen for the 1959-60 Kangaroo tour was announced, there was consternation all over Queensland. In what would have to go down as one of the greatest selection travesties in the history of Australian rugby league, only seven Queenslanders were chosen for the 26-man squad. And this was after Queensland had won the interstate series three games to one. The player that had the right to feel most aggrieved was Bobby Banks. He had won the J G Stephenson trophy as the best Queensland player that year. Clive Churchill publicly pronounced him as the best five-eighth in Australia. Queenslanders were asking why the captain and best player on the best interstate team wasn’t picked, and be rated by the selectors as not being among the best two five-eighths in Australia. The player supposedly picked in his place was St George’s Bob Bugden. This was astonishing, for although there was no doubt that Bugden was a fine player, he was a half-back picked as a five-eighth, and he had not yet represented NSW.
Going on a tour in 1959 was an expensive proposition for players, and the rugby league officials in Townsville were well aware of this. So, the Jim Paterson Testimonial Fund was set up by a special committee to help him out financially. Several fundraising events were organised, including a ‘tarpaulin muster’ held at the Townsville Sports Reserve where £110 was raised. His club, Souths, contributed £75 and set up a PO Box number for anyone who wanted to send in a donation. The Townsville Rugby League added £100 and the other Townsville clubs chipped in with £50. After all the monies were added up, there was a total of £698/3/4. Jim was humbled by the generosity shown to him and made a point of expressing his heartfelt thanks to all those concerned. Even his employers wanted to lend their support and let him know that he wouldn’t lose any benefits while he was overseas. Jim left Australia determined to do his utmost to repay his supporters in the only way he could – by performing well on the field.
While on tour, Jim roomed with Queensland forward Elton Rasmussen, from Toowoomba. Elton never used to drink in those days and would often go crook at Jim for ‘drinking too much’. Jim was one of the players that would go out to nightclubs. He and the other Kangaroos never used to spend much money as their wages were only £15 per week, but they would often have a few drinks. Jim would sometimes come back to their hotel room a bit the worse for wear. The irony was that years later Elton apologised to Jim because he ran hotels in Brisbane and Toowoomba. The players got up to a bit of mischief on the tour, but not too much. There were a lot of single players so there was some fun.
The team was up in Yorkshire and Lancashire, around the middle of England, for a lot of the English leg of the tour. Jim felt that the accommodation was not brilliant, but that some of it was OK. Most of the hotels they stayed at were not too flash with the food. They never got steak – maybe sometimes roast beef with vegetables. There was not much chance for sightseeing, but the players did spend a week in the Lakes District, which many of the players found enjoyable and they had the opportunity to visit a couple of castles. When there was training the following day they could only go so far, as you had to get back that night. The coach was Clive Churchill. He picked the team, but would often get Keith Barnes’ opinion. The Kangaroos didn’t have a trainer or a masseur. If someone needed a rubdown before a game a teammate would ‘volunteer’. If someone got hurt badly during a game an English ambulanceman came on. If you only got something like a corked leg, another player would assist you off.
Jim was not picked for any of the Tests against Great Britain, but he did play in a total of 20 matches against club sides on the tour, showing a lot of pace and tackling as well as ever. In one of those matches Jim definitely made a name for himself, but not in a way that he expected to. He unwittingly became the central character in one of the most controversial incidents ever to occur on a Kangaroo tour. On September 19th, Australia was playing Warrington. Jim was sitting in the grandstand as one of the spectators, without any playing gear. Around 10 minutes after the game started, forward Brian Hambly got belted in the nose and left the field with blood streaming down his face.
Jack Argent, one of the Kangaroo managers, came up to Jim and said, ‘You’re going to replace Hambly – he’s broken his nose or something’. Jim knew of course that replacements were not allowed. He replied, ‘You sure this is all right?’ The manager then told him, ‘We’re in charge – and it is OK with Warrington. And you’d better put a bit of sticking plaster on your nose’. Jim was happy enough to go along with the plan, as long as permission had been given. So about 10 minutes after Hambly went off, Jim came on in Hambly’s number 19 jersey, with a piece of sticking plaster in place.
After the game, Jack Argent confirmed the switching of players. He told the gathered journalists that Warrington had suggested that they replace Hambly with a substitute, and that they had accepted the offer. When quizzed about why Jim needed sticking plaster, Jack said that Jim had a scratch on his nose. In answer to the question why Jim wore the 19 jersey, the manager replied truthfully that his kit was back at the hotel. After this, the journalists started hurling questions at Warrington manager Cec Mountford, and he explained that when the Australian player was hurt, he and club chairman Dr T McClelland suggested getting another player on the field so that the match would not be one-sided. Dr McClelland was asked if he knew about the rules banning substitutes. He replied that the decision was made without thinking about the rules and for the good of the game.
Neither the crowd nor the referee found out about what had happened until after the match was over. Referee Gelder complained that he should have been shown the courtesy of being told. Afterthe game, the Sydney Morning Herald took issue with what had happened, saying how ‘embarrassing’ it all was. However, the Australian Rugby League Board of Control opted not to impose any sanctions. Britain’s Rugby League Council gave a caution to Warrington, but took no further action. The decision taken by the Warrington leadership was a fine piece of sportsmanship and they should have been commended by all. They risked criticism in trying to ensure a fair and equal contest and followed the spirit of the law, if not the letter. The only lasting effect was that Jim gained a little bit of notoriety for being the ‘villain’ of the piece.
The game itself was judged by many to be the best of the whole tour. Although the Warrington players lacked some energy due to an unfortunate scheduling decision, which meant that they had to play an intense match against fellow English league front-runners Wigan just before the match against Australia, they played extremely well. Star Australian-born winger Brian Bevan had scored two tries for Warrington and the home team was only one point behind with one minute left. A scrum went down five yards out from the Australian try line. Warrington full-back Eric Fraser was waiting behind the scrum, ready to kick a field goal that would win the game. Australian half-back Barry Muir fed the ball, with it going in dead straight as he did not want to give away a penalty. Warrington hooker Paddy Lannon and Kangaroo rake Noel Kelly struck for the ball simultaneously. Lannon had control at first, but as he encouraged his forwards to push forward, Kelly got control and the ball skidded out towards Muir. He picked it up and quickly ran to his left. Bevan tried to come infield for an interception, but Muir timed his pass perfectly to the 19-year-old rocket Ken Irvine and it was shut-the-gate. He bolted along the touchline for a length-of-the-field try, with no-one coming close to catching him.
Being chosen for the first and third Tests against the French was the highlight of the tour for Jim. Australia was able to win all three Tests in this series, despite what the tourists viewed as very biased refereeing. From Jim’s perspective, he wasn’t angry about it. He felt you just had to put up with it. He didn’t view it as that serious. In the first Test in Paris on October 31st Australia outplayed the French, although the final score of 20-19 made the game seem very close. Australia scored four tries to one, with Eddie Lumsden playing his finest game on tour, scoring three tries. Keith Barnes was successful with four conversions. Only the boot of French full-back Andre Lacaze kept the hosts in the game with six goals (a large number of penalties were awarded against the tourists) and two field goals. Australia were more clearly the superior team in the third Test in Roanne, played on January 20th. They scored four tries to two, doubling the French total. The French found Jim difficult to tackle and he often made inroads in attack, offloading the ball in tackles and consistently positioning himself well in cover defence.
At the end of the tour, good judges of the game blamed Australia’s loss of the Ashes mainly on the selection process by the national selectors before the tour and by Clive Churchill on the tour. Queensland’s fears about not including Bobby Banks were well founded, as neither five-eighth picked in that position for the tour played against Great Britain. Certainly Churchill had player injuries to contend with, but decisions like having three different second-row combinations in each of the three Tests against Great Britain (see table) hindered Australia’s forwards’ efforts to gain consistency and fluency on the field.
|vs Great Britain||Date||Venue||Second-rowers|
By the end of 1959, Cairns had become the powerhouse of the Foley Shield Northern Division, representing it nine times in the first 12 finals held. During 1959, the Innisfail Rugby League headed by Fred Delaforce decided to do something about this and bring a greater focus to winning their maiden Foley Shield. They got hammered by Cairns that year, losing their two games by a combined total of 64 points. One step they took was to re-lay the playing surface of the local ground. In order to save the ground from wear and tear, they brought in a new rule allowing for ball boys to bring sand out on to the field. This was for goal-kickers to make a mound for placing the ball on, rather than letting them dig a hole for the ball with their heel. It was the first time this had ever been done and every major rugby league committee around Australia soon followed suit. The other step was to entice international Jim Paterson to come and play for them in 1960. After some hesitation, and after a mate of his by the name of ‘Stumpy’ Lawrence helped to get him a job, Jim Paterson decided to leave his comfort zone and moved to Innisfail.
The coach of the team in 1959 was an English import by the name of Jim Watson. He signed on again for the 1960 season, but decided to leave after a couple of games. Jim was asked to step in and take over the coaching duties and he accepted. He didn’t try to model his coaching style after anyone – he believed you have to have your own style to be successful. As coach he introduced a different way of playing. In the North, coaches had traditionally been reluctant to ask their players to throw long passes, due to the constantly wet conditions and the resulting slipperiness of the ball. Jim demanded the constant practice of long passes to get the ball clear from the tackled player and to the outside backs as quickly as possible. He added extra running to training in order to try to make his charges the fittest team in the competition. Finally, he constantly insisted on maintaining a tight defence, getting players to do a lot of tackle practice. The drilling and new style of play worked – Innisfail defeated their greatest rival on both occasions that they played in 1960.
After losing just two matches, Innisfail finished at the top of the Northern Division’s points table in 1960 and the red and whites made their first-ever final. However, their opponents were not to be underestimated. Herbert River was led by captain-coach Don Meehan, the current Queensland lock, who had played for the Maroons on nine occasions. The southerners also boasted the likes of former Queensland front-rower John Eaton, and full-back Frank Snelling and half-back Frank Aili who were in the North Queensland team that year. Herbert River had gone undefeated in the competition, winning all of their games by substantial margins. In many people’s minds, they were favourites to take out the trophy.
Herbert River got off to the best possible start, scoring in the first 60 seconds after Innisfail gave away an early penalty in kicking range. Pat Farrell kicked the goal, and was his team’s best player. Apart from kicking another two-pointer, he was excellent in general play. He found an opening in the Innsifail defensive line and zipped through, setting up the first try of the match. He ended up being responsible for all of their nine points. After that try, Innisfail was under pressure. Cameron, the full-back, missed several attempts at goal throughout the game, and Innisfail supporters were starting to wonder where their team’s points were going to come from.
They needn’t have worried. Halfway through the first half, Jim showed that he had neither lost his ability to back up nor his pace by keeping up with winger Ambrum after he made a break, taking his pass and scoring under the posts. After Innisfail levelled at five all and then went to the half-time break with a 7-5 lead after Cameron kicking a penalty, they were never headed, although Herbert River attacked their line in the closing stages. The final score was 12 points to 9 and Innisfail were finally Foley Shield champions. The spectators gave Jim a spirited ovation and he was presented with the Farrelly blazer as the outstanding player of the match. Jim’s leadership abilities had really come to the fore, and in the whole of Jim’s career this was personally his most memorable game. Observers of the contest felt that this was the best match Jim had ever played in the North.
1961 was the last year in which Jim was picked for Australia, as part of the touring party to New Zealand. He played in both Tests, where the two sides each scored a total of 20 points and split the games one all. As Australia were the current holders of the Trans-Tasman Cup, they held on to the trophy. He was also part of the Queensland team that retained the Dr Finn Trophy by storming back to win the interstate series after losing the first two games. The six forwards for Queensland in games three and four included five internationals, and the sixth was a future star second-rower, Mick Veivers, who would go on to play six Tests. NSW got absolutely hammered up front in Game 3, and Barry Muir had a field day behind his rampaging pack. While NSW played better in the final game, they did not have enough to overcome the Maroon dominance in the forwards.
In 1962, the Brisbane Courier-Mail decided to sponsor a Queensland Championship, the first time such a tournament had ever been held. The six leagues, comprising of Ipswich, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Wide Bay-Burnett, Central Queensland and North Queensland, competed for an annual prize of £500. In the first year of competition, Brisbane played North Queensland in the final in Brisbane and triumphed 16-12. The two teams again made the final in 1963, but this time they would play the match in Townsville. The 1963 Brisbane team had just won the Bulimba Cup for the third year in a row. It was a star-studded outfit, and outside of Test and interstate football, was arguably the most formidable team ever assembled in Queensland. Eleven out of the starting 13 players had played for Queensland and/or Australia and included seven internationals: Frank Drake, Lionel Morgan, Johnny Gleeson, Barry Muir, Ken Day, Mick Veivers and Peter Gallagher. No-one gave North Queensland even a ghost of a chance of winning the match, except perhaps the most ardent one-eyed North Queensland fans.
The North Queensland Rugby League pulled out all the stops to make the final a gala event. They organised to have the largest number of QRL officials ever to attend a match, including QRL president Frank Burke and all five Queensland selectors: Ralph Ross, Jack Crow, Neil Teys, Denis Flannery and Charlie Roff. The famous commentator Frank Lovejoy came up to broadcast the game and Courier-Mail rugby league columnist Jack Reardon was at the game to write a report first-hand. Jim was appointed captain-coach of North Queensland for the game and the referee appointed was Ron West. In a monumental upset, North Queensland played the Brisbane team off the park, trouncing the visitors 31 to 5. Jim was the team’s inspirational leader, both off and on the field. He was not a big talker, but his presence gave the other players confidence and self-belief.
This amazing win started a golden period for rugby league in North Queensland in the mid-’60s. Their list of wins against significant opposition was impressive to say the least. They went on to win the next two Queensland Championships, beating Brisbane 24-19 and Toowoomba 18-10. They also beat the touring French team in 1964 and the Great Britain tourists in 1966. In all these matches, Jim was either the captain or the captain-coach. The win against the French was the first occasion that North Queensland had ever beaten a touring international side. They demolished their opposition, scoring nine tries to the visitors three. In Jim’s representative swansong, he led his teammates to a come-from-behind victory against the British. The game was won on defence, with Jim leading his young forward pack in containing their much vaunted opposition.
Jim became a Queensland selector the year after he finished playing and was an Australian selector in the ’70s. The powers that be initially weren’t prepared to fly him down to Sydney for the national team selection process – they wanted his input over the phone. Jim hadn’t lost any of his legendary toughness and quickly made it clear that this was unacceptable. Jim won the argument. He played the game with a tremendous combination of great ability and sportsmanship, inspiring his teammates and thrilling onlookers. Jim is arguably the finest forward ever produced by North Queensland.