Hats off to Castlemaine’s seven-decade servant

By Richard Jones

JACK Jefferies’ service to the Castlemaine Football Club has spanned every decade from the 1940s to the early part of the 21st century.
He has been a player – and a premiership player, at that, in 1952 – a club president, vice-president and committeeman and also the vice-president of the Bendigo Golden City League when it was formed in the early 1980s.
And following his 81st birthday last November he’s back on the Magpies’ finance sub-committee, continuing his life-long commitment to the Pies from Camp Reserve.
Jack’s son John “Chicka” Jefferies was also a Castlemaine premiership player — as a key defensive player in the Magpies’ five-point winning team against Golden Square in 1992.
“That was my last game for the Maine. I retired after the Grand Final – I was 34,” John said.
Nowadays both men can take a break from the footy action to watch John’s daughter Kirby play A-grade netball for the Maine.
Jack played 207 games with Castlemaine, and eight games with Eaglehawk. John totted up more than 240 games with the Magpies.

JACK was born in Castlemaine in November, 1927. His senior footy career began with his home club in 1944 at the age of sixteen, when the Magpies were part of the Castlemaine and District Football League.
In his early career Jack played as a ruck-rover, but as he developed physically his on-ball ability turned him into a ruckman.
His high marking, stamina and accurate taps from ruck contests were a feature of his play. His first five years of football saw him play in three premierships teams. In 1948 he was invited to train with the Melbourne Football Club.
Family commitments meant he couldn’t pursue a career with the Demons so Jack continued with his beloved Magpies.
It was 1949 when Jack Jefferies first played in the BFL. The Castlemaine Football Club was keen to re-enter the Bendigo competition (which the club had been part of way back in the 1920s) and Jack made his presence felt from the opening bounce of the ’49 season with the Pies back in the Bendigo league.
The Magpies’ very first match was against power club Sandhurst at the Upper Reserve (renamed in the QEO in 1953), and Jack was best afield.
Castlemaine soon became a competitive force in the BFL, culminating in a glorious premiership in 1952.
Jack was vice-captain of the team and one of the Maine’s most consistent players all season. When they got back to Castlemaine after the Grand Final the circus was in town so the victorious players rode elephants in the town’s main streets.
Some of the great players of one of the BFL’s golden eras were Sandhurst’s Kevin Curran and Eaglehawk’s Peter Pianto, Basil Ashman and George Ilsley, Jack recalled.
At his own club none topped coach, the late Wally Culpitt of Hawthorn fame. Other Magpie greats included Ron McKnight, Les Murray and Max Gale.
Jack was firmly convinced the BFL was the best league in country Victoria.
Just about every club boasted ex-VFL players; the standouts included the late Ollie Grieve (Carlton, Eaglehawk) and Norm McDonald (Essendon, Golden Square).
Jack Jefferies was named in the BFL inter-league sides in all five seasons he played at Castlemaine and he was vice-captain to South Bendigo great Alan McDonald (later to coach Richmond) in the Coronation Day game at Echuca on 2 June 1953.
Jack was granted Castlemaine life membership in 1952. He accepted promotion in his job to Bendigo in 1954 which meant he could no longer play for Castlemaine.
Apparently there was an imaginary line drawn across Big Hill with anyone living north of the line committed to playing for a Bendigo-based club.
Son John has another view. “There was a zoning policy in force during the 1950s and Dad was unsuccessful in gaining an exemption from that zone policy,” he explained.
So Jack, although he wasn’t all that happy with the policy, decided to try his luck with Eaglehawk. He had a great respect for the Two Blues and because he loved his footy decided to join the Canterbury Park club.
Unfortunately he suffered serious leg and ankle injuries after just eight games in 1954 and at the age of 26 his football career came to an end.
That was just the start of another chapter in Jack Jefferies’ remarkable life and football career. He served as president of the Castlemaine Junior Football League for 12 years, with his administrative abilities keenly noted at the senior level.
Jack joined the Castlemaine Football Club committee in the mid-1970s and over the next 30 years he provided outstanding service.
He served as club president for eight years, another three as vice-president and also served time as treasurer, chairman of selectors and player advocate at the BFL tribunal. Jack also was the Castlemaine delegate to the BFL long before the board of management, as we know it today, came into existence.
Jack was right in the thick of the administrative maelstrom which enveloped Bendigo footy in the early 1980s when the Bendigo league and the old Golden City league were amalgamated.
Not only was there a march through city streets by GCFL supporters and officials, there was a dramatic VCFL-chaired meeting at the old Red Cross building in View Street, Bendigo. Rocks were hurled onto the roof during the heated proceedings inside.
Jack Jefferies was just about the only rational voice at those tumultuous BGCFL meetings when club delegates waved fists about, hurled pens onto the floor and against the walls and eventually stormed out.
He was elected as vice-president of the amalgamated BGCFL body and attended countless meetings and debates as the future direction of Bendigo footy was sorted out.
In 1983 the BFL honoured Jack with the award as Personality of the Year and a decade later, in 1993, he was granted the league’s highest honour: life membership.
On a memorable Friday night in August 1996 Jack Jefferies was inducted, along with 11 other identities, into the Bendigo Football League Hall Of Fame.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Enjoyed reading this Richard. Jack’s service to the game is outstanding that’s for sure. Have heard similar sentiments expressed about the strength of the Bendigo League back then. There must have been many good players like Jack who could have played at VFL level but had commitments to families, farms, businesses etc. The interleague matches were reportedly pretty big affairs back then as well. What were the main objections to the merger in the 80’s?

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