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James Black #13, What Happened After They Yelled at Him to Pick Up the Ball – Scottish Rover!

​​Presented by Tiger champion, Tony 'Aussie' Wynd

'At 15 James was the youngest ever Tigers 1st Grade player, until Josh Fahey in 2021!'


James Black

Queanbeyan Tigers Junior

1st Grade Best and Fairest – 1974, 77, 78 and 1980

1st Grade Captain / Coach – 1981

1st Grade Captain – 1975, 1980

Selected in ACTAFL Legend team - 2000

Total 1st Grade Games with Queanbeyan – 191. Total Games 200

  • Playing 1st Grade when you are 15½ years old is pretty impressive.

  • Playing 1st Grade when you are 15½ and not a particularly big rover, is even more impressive.

  • Playing 1st Grade when you are 15½ and not a particularly big rover and you had not played or even heard of the sport until you were 12 years old is just amazing.

Jim Black spent the initial 11 years of his life in the country of his birth, Scotland. After his family migrated to Australia, he was expecting to play some rugby union. Instead, Peter ‘Pies’ Duncan, one of his friends who also went on to play many 1st Grade games for the Tigers, persuaded him to go to Aussie Rules training because there was a ‘pie night’ (no relation) afterwards.


In his initial game of under 13s for the junior Tigers, Jim had the ball frequently and, consistent with his knowledge of football, he ‘soccered’ it from the ground on each occasion. He remembers the parents yelling at him to ‘to pick up the ball’. Being a quick learner, Jim soon did and, as they say, the rest is history. By 1968 he had found his feet (and his hands), was playing under 15s and under 17s and had started to collect league best and fairest awards.

From his debut senior game in 1969 and for the next 15 years, Jim Black was a star player with a touch of class that few, if any, in the ACT could match. During this time, he was Captain, Coach, four‑time Best and Fairest and played 191, 1st Grade games, whilst being a standard‑bearer for the Tigers in what, he reflects, ‘was a mainly bleak period’.  ‘There were times we would pick a first‑grade team on Thursday night, but you were not sure if they would all turn up on Saturday’ - and sometimes they didn’t. For example, in 1971 the Tigers only managed one win, whilst Jim was playing Under 19s and Seniors. J Black was both League B&F in the 19s and runner up B&F in the Tigers Seniors in that year (aged 17).

Jim’s class was noted by all in the Canberra football community. His acceleration out of a pack, clean hands and accurate disposal, his skill in kicking goals on the run or from a set shot and ability to run down an opponent, made him stand out. One year, an infection in his right foot meant he kicked on his left for many weeks and he became extremely proficient. Such was his ability on his non‑preferred side that he could regularly turn on his left, find space and hit a target. In fact, one of his coaches, Terry Leahy, had assumed he was a natural left footer.


He also set himself high standards, which is exemplified by his comment on one of his best days on the field when he kicked 9 goals at Queanbeyan Park, stating ‘but I missed two 2 sitters’.


As well as playing regularly for the ACT, his ability also led to a couple of trial games with Collingwood in 1970 and 1971. In one, playing for the Collingwood firsts, he remembers kicking 4 goals and then, when playing for the seconds against the firsts, he recalls that ‘I got my arse kicked for a while’, but so did the whole team. 


The trip to Melbourne the second time proved a weekend from hell.  A baggage handlers strike meant he landed at the airport with no change of clothes, toiletries etc, but also no football gear. He was forced to play the trial game in borrowed shorts and boots, which obviously did not work to his advantage. Jim had to wear the same clothes all weekend. He arrived home on the Monday with blistered feet, but his bags didn’t reappear until Wednesday.


Jim’s sporting ability was evident in other codes as well. In addition to best and fairest awards for rugby union at school, he later played some rugby league in the mid-week lunchtime public service competition when working at the Government Printing Office. His efforts earned an invitation from work colleague, Johnny Hawke (a former St George and Australian rugby league player), to trial with St George in Sydney.  Jim says he may have been a little hasty and brash in responding ‘I like my face how it is, thanks’. He adds that he did later train with the Queanbeyan Blues in pre-season to get fit as they started training much earlier than the Tigers in that period. 


Jim recalls that the Tiger’s on-field performance started to improve when Terry Leahy was coach in 1974. ‘He prompted a sea change in attitude. More players realised that we had to seriously put in to get something out of it.’


Prior to the 1976 season, Jim convinced another work colleague and Manuka coach, Kevin Delmenico - who was thinking of retiring from football - to speak to the Queanbeyan committee about the coaching role. Delmenico took the job and by 1977 the Tigers were starting to find their roar. They were up by 14 points with 10 minutes to go in the second semi-final but were over-run by the Manuka team. Several serious injuries ruled key players out for the preliminary final the following weekend and, to add injury to insult, an injury meant Jim could not take the field after half-time and the Tigers bowed out.

Jim says the 1978 team was the best he played in, beating the other top teams by 6 or more goals during the home and away games. However, injuries again cruelled the hopes of premiership glory with Jim lamenting ‘by the finals we had more first-graders watching than playing’.


A personal highlight came in 1980, with Jim a member of the famous ACT Representative team which defeated the VFL. He recalls that ‘you could name your own odds’ before the game. That game was ‘the first time I really heard the noise of a big crowd, and it did give us a boost’. This game was also one of the very early games to feature the concept of interchange. The ACT team rotated 3 rovers off the bench, and Jim was most definitely not a fan of the concept.


Other fond memories that bring a smile to his face include;

  • that he received a best player award in his first senior game which, instead of a shirt, turned out a pair of yellow socks (donated by Paulmart Menswear Store), which he never had the occasion to wear;

  • a game at the Queanbeyan Park on the ‘coldest day ever’, when one of his team-mates, Iggy Rzepa, wore a (short length but full body) wet-suit under his footy gear;

  • the day, during the period in the early 1980s when West Canberra Magpies were paying big dollars for players and flying them up from Melbourne each weekend. One of the imports was being soundly beaten by the Tiger’s John Lysewycz and said ‘you must be getting paid a motza’, to which Lizard responded, ‘not as much as Blacky, he is getting twice as much as me’. (Lizard was on $10 a win, and Jim $20 a win); and

  • there was also a strong social side to the club with memories of regular Hāngīs (Māori pit oven) at John Abel’s house and many boisterous nights at the Bowling club.


In 1981 Jim was appointed coach, but as both the club finances and on-field performance had again ebbed. To make matters worse, Jim had a long-term hamstring injury that meant he played little/no football himself and it was ‘not a great outcome that year’.


Despite the successes being infrequent, his personal drive and the camaraderie of a core group of local juniors and good mates who were also very handy players, helped Jim to continue to strive for success. This group included other long serving Tigers in Alan and Col Imrie, Pies Duncan and Denis Hopkins. Many of this group also became heavily involved in the administration of the club in this period, along with other youngsters like Ron Fowlie and Sandy McDonald, which sparked the advancement of the club.


Today, the Tigers mean ‘ancient history, but a good history’. ‘It was a struggle. Players today probably don’t realise how bad it was – but we went from almost being kicked out of the comp to challenging in finals. It was a struggle to field teams, it was a struggle against better financed, better equipped teams that had stronger playing lists. It was also a struggle against other football codes within Queanbeyan; we lost a lot of juniors to the rugby codes. Indeed, it was a struggle to keep the club viable. In a perverse way, we were a perfect representative of Struggletown’.


Jim hopes that he and his compatriots were a strong ‘link in the chain’ that helped the club on the path to greater heights. One other link in that chain was his son, James, who went on to be a Premiership player in 1991.


Jim Black does not need to hope, he can be assured that he takes pride of place in the Tigers history of almost 100 years.

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