INTRODUCTION


In the ensuing seasons, Jimmy established himself as a Fitzroy champion and a star of VFL football. It is reported, that Gordon Coventry once commented that Jimmy… “Was the best forward of his era.” Research into Jimmy’s long playing history with Fitzroy supports Gordon’s words.

Jimmy’s record in VFL ranks needs to be brought into light for younger people to gain an appreciation of his undoubted ability and loyalty to Fitzroy FC. This is Jimmy Freake’s story…

AFL Record 1914 R15 P06 Jim Freake Fitzroy
AFL Record 1914 R15 P06 Jim Freake Fitzroy


FITZROY’S LUCKY DAY

Jimmy (born: 1889), the son of William and Beatrice Freake, grew up in Preston and, as a youngster, was an avid supporter of Collingwood. It appears that Jimmy loved sports in general; and residing so close to Victoria Park, it is understandable that football ‘caught his imagination’ as a youth. It is known, that Jimmy played for Fitzroy in the Victorian Junior Association in 1910. ‘The Argus’ (September 1910) mentioned Jimmy’s solid performance in a match against Port Melbourne that season. According to several other reliable sources, Jimmy would have loved to have played with Collingwood but…

“…his wish to play for the Magpies was thwarted by the presence of the great Dick Lee and he (Jimmy) linked up with the neighbouring club.” ‘Holmesby & Main.’ Page : 187.


After some consideration, notions of ‘saddling up’ with the Magpies were abandoned; and Jimmy trained with Fitzroy (known as the Maroons in those times) at the Brunswick Street Oval in 1912. He must have impressed the FFC selectors ‘on the track’ because he was selected to play his first game of VFL, in Round:1 of the season, against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval.

Former Fitzroy veteran, Geoff Moriarity, was the coach of FFC that season; and the team included such noted players as Wally Johnson, Percy Parratt, Jack Cooper, Harold McLennan, Bill Walker b1883 and George Lambert.

1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy F Bamford Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy F Bamford Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Fred Bamford
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy I Cooper Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy I Cooper Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Jack Cooper
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy J Freake Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy J Freake Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Jimmy Freake
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Hutton Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Hutton Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Cliff Hutton
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy W Johnson Sportmem
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy W Johnson Sportmem
Wally Johnson
Fitzroy
Sportmem
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Lambert Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Lambert Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
George Lambert
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy A Lenne Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy A Lenne Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Bert Lenne
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Norris Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy C Norris Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Charlie Norris
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy P Parratt Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1911 Sniders N Abrahams H Fitzroy P Parratt Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
Percy Parratt
Fitzroy
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards


In a low scoring affair, South Melbourne: 7.5. (47) defeated Fitzroy: 4. 10. (34); Jimmy kicked two of Fitzroy’s four goals and had ‘shown enough’ to win selection for the following match against Carlton. Jimmy booted 4 goals against the Blues and, in ‘a trice’, had established himself, in the eyes of the selectors, as a youngster with some flair and ability.

Weekly Times 4 May 1912 P28 SM V Fitz
Weekly Times 4 May 1912 P28 SM V Fitz


Leader 4 May 1912 P31 SM V Fitz
Leader 4 May 1912 P31 SM V Fitz


JIMMY KICKS NINE GOALS AGAINST THE STUDENTS

Jimmy proved to be a skillful forward and regularly ‘hit the scoreboard’ in his debut season. In the match against University, in Round: 14 at the MCG, he kicked nine of his team’s twelve goals in a ‘standout performance.’ He also kicked two ‘bags of five’ that season.

Note: For younger readers, the University Football Club was formed in 1907 and joined the VFL the following season. University had some fine players in that era; and was well served by Bert Hurrey, Jack West, George Elliott, Roy Park, Bert Hartkopf and Jack Brake. The UFC only participated in the VFL until 1914.

Jimmy played in every game in 1912 and his tally of 53 goals was a substantial return for a ‘rookie’. The VFL goal kicking award went to Harry Brereton (Melbourne) who kicked 56 goals that season.

In 1912 there were only ten teams in the VFL and Fitzroy finished fifth on the VFL Ladder with 10 wins. Essendon defeated South Melbourne to win the pennant that season.

1908 Club Flags VFL Fitzroy Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1908 Club Flags VFL Fitzroy Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Fitzroy (VFL) - Capstan
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1908 Club Flags VFL University Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1908 Club Flags VFL University Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

University (VFL) - Capstan
Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards


1913 - ENTER PERCY PARRATT

Fitzroy FC made a wise decision at the beginning of the 1913 season and appointed Percy Parratt as playing coach of the club. Percy, who had played his early football at Northcote, was a feted personality of the game in that era of VFL football …

AFL Record 1914 R1 p24 Percy Parratt Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria
AFL Record 1914 R1 p24 Percy Parratt Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria
Percy Parratt - 1923 Magpie Portraits of Leading Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Percy Parratt - 1923 Magpie Portraits of Leading Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
The Sporting Globe Football Book 1930 p68 Percy Parratt - Source:State Library of Victoria
The Sporting Globe Football Book 1930 p68 Percy Parratt - Source:State Library of Victoria
1921 McIntyre Bros. Football Champion Series 1 P.Parratt (Fitzroy)
1921 McIntyre Bros. Football Champion Series 1 P.Parratt (Fitzroy)


“…It was written of Parratt that there may have been players more spectacular than him, but few were more effective. He was the personification of football brains.” ‘Holmesby & Main’ Page: 459.


Although Billy Walker was named as club captain, the influence of Percy Parrett, as an on-field leader, was significant to the development of Jimmy Freake as a key forward in the competition. It is recorded that Percy and Jimmy Freake formed a ‘deadly duo’ and their understanding (sixth sense) and team work were instrumental in lifting the Maroons into the finals that season…

“Parratt and Freake had perfected their productive partnership during the 1912 preseason when Parratt was impressed by Freake’s goal kicking accuracy. Parratt’s passes were delivered with such precision that if Freake failed to mark the ball his opponent usually conceded a free kick …” ‘The Clubs’ (Viking Publications 1998).


FITZROY WIN THE FLAG

Fitzroy charged up the ladder in 1913 in blazing style. Not only did the club produce some stunning performances, under Percy Parratt’s astute leadership, but the Maroons also acquired the sobriquet of the ‘Unbeatables’…

“Nicknamed the Unbeatables, the Fitzroy team of 1913 produced the most remarkable season in the club’s history. Possessing the perfect balance of speed and strength and a deadly attack of Freake, Toohey and playing coach Parratt, it won a club-record 18 matches and the Premiership.” Rick Lang (Historian).


Fitzroy finished on top of the VFL ladder in 1913; and defeated Collingwood by 37 points in the First Semi-Final at the MCG. Jimmy Freake kicked 3 goals and was listed as Fitzroy’s second best player.

The Grand Final was played between St Kilda and Fitzroy on September 27th at the MCG before a large crowd of 59, 476. It is recorded that, while Fitzroy had the game firmly in its control for three quarters, a four goal surge by the Saints brought the match alive; and created doubt in the minds of the Maroons fans. However, with time running out, Fitzroy steadied and a goal to rover George ‘Yorky’ Shaw sealed the game and St Kilda’s fate.
The Quarter by Quarter scores:

Fitzroy : 3.6 4.8 5.11 7.14 (56)
St Kilda: 0.1 0.5 1.10. 5.13. ( 43)
Goals for Fitzroy: Shaw 2 Freake Norris Toohey Parratt Martin
Goals for St Kilda: Morrisey 2 Millhouse Sellers Baird
Best For Fitzroy: Holden McLennan Parratt Johnson Cooper Shaw Lethbridge Heaney Toohey
Best for St. Kilda: Eicke Woodcock Schmidt Ellis Bowden Cumberland* Baird Collins.

  • Note: The story of Vic Cumberland (St Kilda) can be found on this website.

The triumph was a just reward and a ‘feather in the cap’ for Percy Parratt. His record, as a coach at Fitzroy (1913-1921), was impressive with seven finals appearances. VFL Records show that Percy also coached at Carlton (1924) and Geelong (1935).

Table Talk 2 Oct 1913 P22 1913 Grand Final
Table Talk 2 Oct 1913 P22 1913 Grand Final


Leader 4 Oct 1913 FitzroyTeam Premiers
Leader 4 Oct 1913 FitzroyTeam Premiers
Weekly Times 4 Oct 1913 P33 1913 VFL GF
Weekly Times 4 Oct 1913 P33 1913 VFL GF


A TRAIN TRIP TO ADELAIDE

Following the VFL Grand Final, Fitzroy travelled, by train, to South Australia to play in an exhibition match against the SA premiers, Port Adelaide. Port Adelaide won in grand style; and gave the Maroons a ‘football lesson’ to such an extent that, in the second half, the game deteriorated into a ‘one-sided’ and dull affair. The scores were:

Port Adelaide: 13.16. (94) defeated Fitzroy: 4.7.(31).
Jimmy Freake kicked two of Fitzroy’s four goals; and according to ‘The Advertiser’…

“Freake was the pick of the forward lines, proving a difficult man to keep in check.”


Jimmy kicked 56 goals that season and won the club’s goal kicking trophy. With four majors in the final series, Jimmy actually kicked the most goals in the VFL in 1913. However, Roy Park (University FC) was deemed to have won the VFL goal kicking award with 53 goals at the end of the home-and-away series of games.

Former FFC captain Harold ‘Lal’ McLennan was Fitzroy’s Best & Fairest player that season; and it is documented that Harold was also selected to play for Victoria against South Australia in 1913.


WAR CLOUDS GATHER IN EUROPE

In 1914, the Fitzroy FC Committee had little hesitation in naming Percy Parratt as the club’s captain and coach, while Jack Cooper was given the role of vice-captain. The Maroons failed to produce the scintillating form, of the previous season, and finished third on the VFL Ladder with 12 wins.

Australasian 23 May 1914 P68
Australasian 23 May 1914 P68


Jimmy Freake did not play the last two matches of the season and, in a lack-lustre Semi-Final, Fitzroy was outplayed by Carlton to the tune of 20 points. Despite missing finals action, because of injury, Jimmy had the satisfaction of winning the goal kicking award again with 47 goals. Jack Cooper won the Best & Fairest for the Maroons.

When Fitzroy played an exhibition match in Tasmania, against North Hobart in October that year, the Maroons won by 19 points; but judging by the press report, there was little local enthusiasm shown in the contest by locals…

“The one interstate match played here this season took place on the show ground this afternoon, when the league premiers, North Hobart, was pitted against Fitzroy, who went close to getting in the final for the Victorian league premiership. With the football season at an end, very little interest was evinced in to-day's match, and the attendance could not have numbered more than 400.” ‘The Launceston Examiner’ October 5th 1914.


The small attendance probably reflected that other more important issues occupied the minds of the people at that time. With European nations embroiled in war; and Andrew Fisher’s (the elected Australian Prime Minister in September 1914) promise to… “ defend Great Britain to our last man and our last shilling,” it is little wonder that interest in football had waned as the shadow of war fell across Australia.

1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy F Bamford Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy F Bamford Sportmem

Fred Bamford
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Harold McLennan Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Harold McLennan Sportmem

Harold McLennan
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Herb Lenne Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Herb Lenne Sportmem

Bert Lenne
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Jack Cooper Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Jack Cooper Sportmem

Jack Cooper
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Jimmy Freake Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Jimmy Freake Sportmem

Jimmy Freake
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Percy Heron
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Percy Heron

Percy Heron
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Percy Parratt Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Percy Parratt Sportmem

Percy Parratt
Fitzroy
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Wally Johnson Sportmem
1914 Sniders N Abrahams I Fitzroy Wally Johnson Sportmem

Wally Johnson
Fitzroy


FOOTBALL TAKES A BACK SEAT.

Jim Main’s absorbing book entitled ‘Fitzroy’ states…

“The 1915 VFL season started on the very eve of the Gallipoli landings of April 25th. As Fitzroy players pulled on boots for the opening round against Carlton at Princes Park, Australian troops were waiting to land at the Dardanelles.”


The outbreak of the ‘war across the sea’ had a profound effect on every aspect of Australian life. As history shows, the hasty and unthinking claims that ‘it would be over by Christmas’ were proven to be ridiculous. World War: I brought about death and mass destruction on a scale not previously witnessed; it also ushered in new and horrifying technologies on the battlefield (e.g. mustard gas).

Fitzroy played in the final series for the third successive season. In wet conditions, Fitzroy easily accounted for Collingwood in the Second Semi-Final by six goals. Jimmy kicked a goal while Harold McLennan was listed at FFC’s best player that day. The Maroons stumbled in the Preliminary Final, at the MCG, the following week; and Carlton ran out victors after a thrilling tussle…

“A real trial of strength in which neither side would give an inch until late in the last term when after getting to within four points, Fitzroy folded ….” ‘The Courage Book of Finals.’ Page: 52.


TEN GOALS IN A MATCH & AN INTERESTING COMPARISON

Jimmy Freake kicked 66 goals for Fitzroy that season (1915) including 10 goals against Richmond at the Brunswick Street Oval in Round: 15.It was a demoralizing day for the Tigers as they failed to kick a goal in the first half of the game…

“…and at its conclusion had scored 125 points for the match. Freake in this quarter brought his contribution up to 10 goals, and thus established a lead over Lee, of Collingwood, by 3 goals for the goal-kicking record.” ‘The Argus’ August 2nd 1915


Jimmy actually won the VFL goal kicking award in his own right; but by the end of the final series Collingwood’s Dick Lee and Jimmy had both kicked 66 goals. To that stage, of his VFL career, Jimmy had kicked 222 goals in 74 games goals at an average of 3.0.

It is interesting to note that, to the end of the same season, the Collingwood master forward, Dick Lee, had kicked 410 goals from 140 games, at an average of 2.93 goals per game. Such a comparison gives some measure of Jimmy Freake’s consistency in attack.

AFL Record 1914 R15 p06 Jim Freake Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria
AFL Record 1914 R15 p06 Jim Freake Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria

Jim Freake
AFL Record 1914 Finals W4 p27 Dick Lee Collingwood - Source State Library of Victoria
AFL Record 1914 Finals W4 p27 Dick Lee Collingwood - Source State Library of Victoria

Dick Lee


JACK COOPER PLAYS HIS LAST VFL GAME

The Preliminary Final that season was to be Jack Cooper’s last-ever game of VFL football. Jack had been a steadfast defender for FFC for nine seasons (136 games) and had captained the team in 1912. On his enlistment in the AIF, the club presented Jack with a stylish pen as a parting gift.

Jack‘s story is one of great spirit and bravery. Sadly, he was killed in action at the Battle of Polygon Wood (near Ypres in Belgium) in September 1917. He was 28 years of age when he died. He was one of thousands of Australian soldiers who perished on the battlefields of the Western Front.

AFL Record 1914 Other Games 2 p27 J Cooper Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria
AFL Record 1914 Other Games 2 p27 J Cooper Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria

Jack Cooper
AFL Record 1914 R7 p21 J Cooper Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria
AFL Record 1914 R7 p21 J Cooper Fitzroy - Source State Library of Victoria

Jack Cooper


A SPORT DIVIDED.

A lengthy essay could be written (and many were) about the bitter ructions and divisions that occurred during the years of war throughout the nation. The debate, regarding the ‘pros and cons’, of young men playing football, while others died in combat , became vehement as the grim reality of war struck home…

“After the landing in Gallipoli and the publication of the first massive casualty lists, criticism mounted against the football circus.” ‘Up Where Cazaly?’ Page: 74.


Furthermore, the contentious issue of the conscription, of young able-bodied men into the army, was also a source of conflict in Australian society. It is known, that the VFL vigorously debated the merits of abandoning the league competition.

In 1916, only four teams competed in the VFL ; and the fact that many well-known footballers had supported the ‘Call to Arms’ exacerbated the divisions within the community…

“One of the earliest recruiting posters, ‘An Appeal From the Dardanelles’ in 1915 depicted a wounded soldier standing over a wounded mate, and in the centre of it, dreamlike was picture of a packed crowd at and MCG match. ‘Will they ever come?’ the soldier cried.” ‘The Age’ October 1st 2016


Only Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond voted in favour of the VFL competition being continued…

“...the hard core inner-suburban working class clubs-voted to continue with the poor man’s and poor woman’s amusement.” ‘Up Where Cazaly?’ Page: 75.


The season was a disaster, in more than one way, as:-
  • Key VFL players enlisted to fight overseas.
  • Attendances at games were extremely low.
  • Club finances were stretched to the limit as the call for money, to support the war effort, took precedence across the nation.
  • Support for wartime sport was questionable in the minds of most people. .

Some concessions were made and it was agreed, by the VFL officials , that the season would be shortened to 12 rounds plus a final series. The ‘rules of engagement’ were complex; and the upshot of the complicated finals play-off system was that …. Fitzroy won the 1916 premiership. Fitzroy: 12.13. 85 defeated Carlton: 8.8. (56).

Only 21,130 fans watched that game. The small crowd again underlined the extent of divided opinion regarding the merit(s) of men playing organized football during wartime.

Jimmy Freake played in 11 games that season and kicked 20 goals. He also served on the FFC committee along with several other players.

Tom Heaney won the goal kicking award with 27 goals. It was the first time, since 1912, that Jimmy Freake had not won the award. There appears to be a little confusion, in some texts, but AFL records indicate that Fitzroy’s champion centreman George Holden coached the club in 1916. Several references indicate that Percy Parratt had voluntarily stepped down at the start of that season.

Fitzroy 1916 Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society
Fitzroy 1916 Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society



1917-1921 MIXED FORTUNES FOR JIMMY FREAKE

In the following five seasons, Jimmy Freake experienced the highs and lows that all players face in any lengthy football career. In the period 1917-21, Jimmy played only 54 games and managed 111 goals.

While he won the goal kicking in 1917, with 37 goals, it was nevertheless a disappointing year for Jimmy and the Maroons. Jimmy played his 100th game for Fitzroy, in the Preliminary Final, against Collingwood in 1917; and on that day the Maroons won a thriller by six points. Jimmy and Percy Parratt kicked six (three each) of the team’s 8 goals. It has probably been forgotten in the ‘mists of time’ that Jimmy Freake kicked ‘the sealer’ in that victory…

“… saw Freake steal the game right on the bell when he took the ball on his own and ran right into an open game to past the winning score.” Graeme Atkinson.


In the Grand Final against Collingwood, Jimmy was held to only one goal. Collingwood, coached by the venerable Jock McHale, won by 39 points. Dick Lee kicked 4 goals for the Magpies, in a most spirited performance, on his return from injury. Dick won the VFL goal kicking award for the eighth time that season.

1918 was arguably Jimmy Freake’s best season for Fitzroy. He won the club’s goal kicking trophy (29 goals); it was the sixth occasion that Jimmy had won the club award. However, the greatest honour, ever bestowed upon Jimmy, was when he was awarded FFC’s Best & Fairest trophy that season. It was a most fitting reward for a loyal and steadfast clubman, who had given of his best on every occasion that he donned the team’s colours.

In 1918 Fitzroy won only six games and finished in 5th position on the VFL Ladder.

THE GREAT WAR ENDS

On November 11th that year, World War: I came to an end. While the news of the armistice brought great rejoicing, the price of victory had been extremely high. Most families throughout Australia had been touched, in some way or another, by the horrors of those calamitous years.
Fitzroy Football Club had lost at least eight of its former players on far-flung battlefields.

In Main & Allen’s book entitled ‘Fallen,’ it is listed that seven former Fitzroy players (Jack Cooper, Arthur Harrison, Sid O’Neill, Harry Collins, Tom McCluskey, George Elliot, and Arthur Jones) had all died during World War: I.

The Australian War Memorial documentation also shows that Corporal Thornton Gainsborough Clarke died, at the Battle of Fromelles (France), on July 19th 1916. According to AFL information, Thornton Clarke played four games with Fitzroy in 1911. Along with so many other Australians, from all places and walks of life, Thornton had made the supreme sacrifice in battle.

THE SANDS OF TIME

In the next three years Jimmy Freake played only 24 games and it appears that he had lost the ‘art’ of goal kicking. In 1921, he played just five senior games so it is fair to assume that ‘Father Time’ was catching up on his body; Jimmy’s age at his last game of the 1921 season was 32 years.

It should also be remembered, that Jimmy was not a tall bulky forward who relied on overhead marking; but rather a fast leading and elusive forward who ran hard to find space. As is so often the case, with aging footballers, Jimmy may have lost the ‘proverbial yard’; and perhaps his lack of pace was beginning to tell against younger defenders. Evidence can be found (in one source) to support the idea the Jimmy was used further up the field (on a flank), in later years. If this is accurate, then Jimmy’s opportunities to convert closer to goal were somewhat restricted.

1921 Magpie Rays 12 Fitzroy Stan Molan Sportmem
1921 Magpie Rays 12 Fitzroy Stan Molan Sportmem

Stan Molan
Fitzroy
1921 Magpie Rays 10 Fitzroy Percy Parratt Sportmem
1921 Magpie Rays 10 Fitzroy Percy Parratt Sportmem

Percy Parratt
Fitzroy
1921 Magpie Rays 11 Fitzroy Gordon Rattray  Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards
1921 Magpie Rays 11 Fitzroy Gordon Rattray Source: Otway Jack's Football Cards

Gordon Rattray
Fitzroy
1921 Magpie Rays 09 Fitzroy Clarrie Sherry Sportmem
1921 Magpie Rays 09 Fitzroy Clarrie Sherry Sportmem

Clarrie Sherry
Fitzroy


1922 VIC BELCHER TAKES THE REINS

While ‘time had wearied’ the diminutive forward, 1922 was a remarkable year for Jimmy Freake and the Maroons. Ex-South Melbourne big man, Vic Belcher, was appointed coach of FFC; and he produced a much needed and rapid ‘turn-around’ in the club’s on-field fortunes.

Vic Belcher (born: 1890) had played 226 games with South Melbourne, between 1907 and 1920, and had gained a long lists of awards and decorations as a stalwart of the Bloods.

With Vic at the helm and Chris Lethbridge leading the team as captain, Fitzroy went from strength to strength. Things clicked at the Brunswick Street Oval; and the Maroons began to string together some important victories.

AFL Record 1919 Other Game 1 P15 Vic Belcher Victoria
AFL Record 1919 Other Game 1 P15 Vic Belcher Victoria


Two other factors assisted the Maroon’s climb up the VFL Ladder that season:-
  • The brilliant form of Bob Merrick (until he sustained a serious knee injury in Round:16 against Collingwood at the Brunswick Street Oval).
  • The return to form of Jimmy Freake in the finals series that season. Despite having only played ten games for the year, Jimmy burst into life and gave a dazzling display to inspire the Maroons to another premiership.

1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Robert King Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Robert King Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Bob King
Fitzroy
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Bill McGilvray Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Bill McGilvray Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Bill McGilvray
Fitzroy
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Bob Merrick Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Bob Merrick Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Bob Merrick
Fitzroy
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Gordon Rattray Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Gordon Rattray Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Gordon Rattray
Fitzroy
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Clarrie Sherry Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Clarrie Sherry Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Clarrie Sherry
Fitzroy
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Len Wigraft Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)
1922 Magpie Cigarettes Fitzroy Len Wigraft Otway Jack (thecollectingbug)

Len Wigraft
Fitzroy


VETERAN JIMMY FREAKE IS A MATCH WINNER.

In the First Semi-Final against Collingwood, Jimmy kicked five of Fitzroy’s six goals; and then in the Preliminary Final he kicked two against Essendon. He played a large part in assisting Fitzroy to win through to the Grand Final, against Collingwood at the MCG, on October 14th.

The Fitzroy line-up that day was:
B: Atkinson Jenkins Taylor
HB: Lethbridge Molan Elliott
C: Sherry Corrigan Williams
HF: Parratt Donnellan Rattray
F: Wigraft Freake Gale
R: McCrackenCollinsFergie


That game holds special significance, in the history of VFL football, because it was to be the last game(s) of Collingwood’s brilliant forward Dick Lee and Fitzroy’s skipper Chris Lethbridge. A fact that also escapes some historians, is that it also was Jack Elder’s last game as a VFL field umpire. Jack had umpired in 295 senior League games and had officiated in 39 finals matches.

Fitzroy had three players over thirty years of age in that Grand Final team:-Percy Parratt (35), Jimmy Freake (33) and Chris Lethbridge (32). The youngest player for the ‘Roys was Tommy Corrigan who was still a teenager (19).

The match was reported to have been of high standard due to: (i) the prevailing fine weather, (ii) the skill of both sides and (iii) the personalities involved in the match.

It was a game when the ‘stars came out to shine’. In addition to Fitzroy’s list of elite players, Collingwood’s team had VFL names such as Pannam, Twomey, Coventry, Lee and McHale. It was a ‘clash of the Titans’ and the crowd relished the occasion…

“...after an even first half, in which both sides missed easy shots, Fitzroy sealed the game with a brilliant third quarter burst which netted six goals…”
Jimmy Freake was a stand-out in the Maroon’s surge...


“…with a goal to Freake five seconds after the start of the second half. Freake quickly got another…” ‘Courage Book of Finals.’ Page: 70.
By the end of the game, Jimmy had booted four goals in a match-winning effort. His ‘old comrade in battle’ Percy Parratt got into the act and kicked three goals.

Quarter by Quarter scores were:
Fitzroy: 2.5 3.6 9.10 11.13 (79)
Collingwood: 2.3 4.5 7.7 9.14 (68)

Goals for Fitzroy: Freake 4 Parratt 3 Fergie McCracken Wigraft Williams
Best for Fitzroy: Atkinson Taylor Fergie Freake Parratt Molan

Fitzroy 1922frame Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society
Fitzroy 1922frame Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society


Fitzroy 1922tour Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society
Fitzroy 1922tour Reproduced With Permission From The Collection Of The Fitzroy Brisbane Lions Historical Society



FITZROY CELEBRATE ANOTHER PENNANT

Jimmy Freake’s final series performance, of eleven goals in three matches, was commendable; and it lifted his VFL tally to 379 at average of 2.54 goals per game. Dick Lee, who ‘hung up his boots’ after that Grand Final, had finished his VFL career with 707 goals at an average 3.07 goals per game.

Following the rousing victory, the Maroons enjoyed a magnificent celebration at the Fitzroy Town Hall. Hundreds of elated supporters attended. The feature of the night was the presentation of commemorative tobacco pipes to the Fitzroy players. It is known that Percy Parratt was…

“…handed 50 pounds as a testimonial in recognition of his valuable service to the club.” “Fitzroy ‘Page: 64.


ANOTHER GRAND FINAL FOR JIMMY.

Jimmy’s strong performance in the 1922 Grand Final seemed to re-ignite his career; and he took to the field the following season with a ‘new lease of life.’ Fitzroy had another enterprising season and won the right to play Essendon for the pennant.

Fitzroy was without the mercurial Bob Merrick, for the entire 1921 season, as he had suffered a severe knee injury ( see above). In a match that was ‘up for grabs’ at half-time, Fitzroy stalled in the second half as Essendon ‘found touch’ and kicked four goals to the Fitzroy’s one.

Great credit for the win was given to the Essendon’s coach Syd Barker and his band of ‘small men’ ( Charlie Hardy, Jack Garden, Vince Irwin, Frank Maher and George Shorten) known as the ‘Mosquito Fleet’.

“This (Essendon) was a quick and skillful side, who outran and outlasted Fitzroy.” ‘100 years of Australian Football.’ Page: 113.


Jimmy was Fitzroy’s most effective forward and kicked four of the team’s six goals. He was listed in the ‘best players’ for Fitzroy that day. Records reveal that Jimmy won the club’s goal kicking award again with 45 goals that season.

It had been another productive season for Jimmy as he had ‘bagged’ five goals on four occasions. It was the seventh occasion that Jimmy had won FFC’s goal kicking trophy.

1922 Grand Final - Australasian 21 Oct 1922 P31
1922 Grand Final - Australasian 21 Oct 1922 P31

Sporting Globe 14 Oct 1922 P3 1922 VFL Grand Final
Sporting Globe 14 Oct 1922 P3 1922 VFL Grand Final


A COMEBACK AT ROUND: 13 IN 1924.


At the start of the 1924 season, it was believed that both Fitzroy’s stars Percy Parratt and Jimmy Freake had retired from VFL football.

“Fitzroy are having an anxious time. G. Rattray (captain) and Percy Parratt, the brilliant half-forward, have left the team to coach Melbourne…” ‘The Argus’25th April 1924.


It is true that Percy Parratt departed Fitzroy ( but not as suggested by ‘The Argus’ to Melbourne FC) . Percy was actually appointed coach of *Carlton in 1924. Believe it or not, his first game as the Blues’ coach was against Fitzroy in Round:1 and Fitzroy, coached by Vic Belcher, won a thriller by two points. *Note: Percy was coach of Carlton for only one season; in 1935 he was given the role of coach at Geelong.

In somewhat of a surprise for the ‘Fitzroy faithful’, Jimmy Freake made a comeback for the Maroons in Round: 13, against Richmond at the Brunswick Street Oval, in July 1924. He played a total of eight games in 1924 and kicked 18 goals ; and he was selected for Fitzroy in the finals campaign.

Countryman 18 Jul 1924 P5 Jimmy Freake Fitzroy
Countryman 18 Jul 1924 P5 Jimmy Freake Fitzroy
SportingGlobe 11 Jul 1923p9 Freake
SportingGlobe 11 Jul 1923p9 Freake


JIMMY HANGS UP HIS BOOTS

Jimmy played his last VFL game, against South Melbourne in the Semi-Final at the MCG, on the 27th September 1924. South Melbourne won by 13 points. He kicked two goals for Fitzroy. On the day of his last match with Fitzroy, Jimmy was nearly 36 years of age. He had played 174 games and kicked 442 games in a career that had spanned 13 seasons.

It is interesting to read that Jimmy had played 80, of his 174 VFL games, at the Brunswick Oval. He had kicked 226 goals at his beloved ‘home ground’ including his ‘biggest bag’ of ten against Richmond in 1915.

In total, Jimmy played in 18 VFL final series matches (including four VFL Grand Finals) and kicked 42 goals. Jimmy won the goal kicking award at Fitzroy on seven occasions and was the club champion in 1918.

At the time of his retirement from VFL football, Jimmy was also a member of the FFC committee and was in his eighth term, as a player-member, of the Fitzroy committee.

SportingGlobe 21 Sep 1935 P7 Re 1924 SF
SportingGlobe 21 Sep 1935 P7 Re 1924 SF


REPRESENTATIVE FOOTBALL.

In exploring the playing history of Jimmy Freake, it is mentioned, in one text, that he played two games for Victoria. Details of these games are not readily available. However it is known, that Jimmy played for Victoria against the Bendigo Football Association in Bendigo in July 1913.

The ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ (10th July) stated that Jimmy was named at full-forward; and, along with several other Victorians, was said to have played ‘splendid football’ in booting six majors. The scores were:

Victorian Football League: 16.16. (112) defeated Bendigo Football Association: 9.8 (62).

The main goal kickers for Victoria were listed as: Freake 6 Mortimer 4 and Brownless 3.
In August 1922, Jimmy was member of the Fitzroy team that played a game against a Goldfields combined team in Kalgoorlie (W.A). Surprisingly, the Goldfields: (9.18. (72) defeated Fitzroy: 7.10. (52). No further match details were provided in that edition of ‘The Kalgoorlie Miner.’
Research also shows, that Jimmy also played in an exhibition match for Fitzroy, against a representative team of the Northern Football Association (Tasmania), at York Park in Launceston in August 1924.

‘The Daily Telegraph’ ( Tasmania) of the 9th August 1924 carried a comprehensive preview of the game; and recorded that Jimmy Freake was named at full forward that day. James ‘Snowy’ Atkinson* captained the ‘Roys that season.

  • Note: James Atkinson was not only a brilliant footballer but also captain of the Tasmanian Cricket XI. James (a batsman-wicketkeeper) played against the touring MCC and South African teams. James was described in the 1957 edition of ‘Wisden’ as “…probably Tasmania’s greatest captain.”

THE PITFALLS OF COACHING

Jimmy Freake coached the Fitzroy Juniors in 1925; and a little known fact is that he applied to coach Burnie FC (Tasmania) in 1926. ‘The Hobart Mercury’ broke the news to its readers on March 19th 1926…

“BURNIE CLUB'S COACH....J. FREAKE SELECTED…At a meeting of the Burnie Club on Monday night the secretary read a letter from J. Freake, of Fitzroy, offering his services as coach to the club. He stated that he had played thirteen years with the Fitzroy Club, and last year coached the Fitzroy junior team, which had been runners-up.

The meeting discussed the matter of the appointment of a coach, and, pursuant to a recommendation passed at the annual meeting, it was decided to approach W. Hayman, last year's coach, and offer him the position again. That was done immediately, and Hayman declined the position. The meeting subsequently decided to telegraph to Freake, accepting his offer. For several years Freake was one of the finest forwards in the game.”

Apparently, Jimmy declined Burnie’s return offer ‘by telegraph.’ ‘The Mercury’ reported on April 2nd that the position of coach, at the *Burnie Football Club , was in a state of flux as no appointment had been made to that date.

  • Note: ‘The Burnie Advocate’ (28th April 1926) carried the story that *Stan Trebilco, who had played 24 games with Carlton (1924-25), was appointed Burnie’s coach for that season. In time, Stan became a hero in Tasmanian football and his exploits are worthy of further investigation by readers. Stan may have also played with Northcote (VFA).

3 Oct 1925 P10 Jim Freake Fitzroy Jnrs
3 Oct 1925 P10 Jim Freake Fitzroy Jnrs


JIMMY IS APPOINTED COACH AT BRUNSWICK STREET

In season 1929, Jimmy Freake was appointed as the coach of Fitzroy. The previous season, the ‘Roys’ had finished eighth, on the VFL ladder, under the leadership of captain-coach Gordon Rattray. It appears that the club was in a degree of turmoil in those years; and according to the reference in ‘Fitzroy’ (page77)…

“The political upheaval late in 1928 meant the following season would always be a traumatic one for Fitzroy…the relatively inexperienced Doug Ringrose was appointed playing coach…”


This statement seems to conflict with the official records of that year. According to the AFL records of the 1929 season, Jimmy Freake coached Fitzroy in the first eight rounds of the season. Jimmy’s first match as the Maroon’s coach was against Footscray at the Western Oval. Footscray won by nine points.

Unfortunately, Jimmy’s coaching history was hardly flattering. In eight outings as FFC coach, he recorded only one win and that was against the League’s ‘cellar dwellers’- North Melbourne.

After Richmond defeated Fitzroy, in Round: 8 by 41 points, Jimmy moved aside and Doug Ringrose (ex-Brighton FC) took over the ‘reins’. Doug didn’t fare much better than Jimmy and Fitzroy finished in 11th position. Doug’s record as a coach was just two wins from 10 games. In 1930, Doug Ringrose was replaced by the highly rated ex- Maryborough ruckman Col Niven…

"Niven led an extremely inexperienced side but club fans reasoned that nothing could be worse than the Maroon’s terrible 1929 season. ‘Fitzroy’ Page: 83.


THE SAD PASSING OF JIMMY FREAKE

Jimmy died in May 1937. He had returned to the Fitzroy FC committee earlier in the year; and it is known that he was a patient, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, at the time of his death. ‘The Argus’ carried the news of Jimmy’s passing…

“Memories of one of the finest forwards in the history of the Australian game of football were revived yesterday by the news of the death of Mr Jim Freake a Fitzroy champion for many years, after a serious operation at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Mr Freake who lived In Foch Street Preston was aged only 49 years. From 1912 to 1922 Freake was one of the best footballers in the League. At Fitzroy he developed a combination with Percy Parratt, a leading half-forward that has not been forgotten. Freake was described as the greatest exponent of goal kicking in League football…” ‘The Argus’ May 20th 1937.
Jimmy was only 49 years of age when he died; he was survived by his wife Gertrude.


JIMMY FREAKE’S FUNERAL

On May 21st , ‘The Age’ newspaper published six very touching tributes to Jimmy from his brothers and sisters (Hannah, Eva, Elsie, Arthur, William and Edmund). In reading the homages, as printed in the bereavement notices, there is no doubt that Jimmy was very much admired and loved by his family.

‘The Age’ (May 22nd 1937) carried a long list of dignitaries, ANFC/VFL officials, and VFL players who attended Jimmy’s funeral at the Preston Cemetery. It reads like a page from ‘Who’s Who’ in Victorian sport.

The mourners included:-Haydn Bunton, Percy Parratt, Chris Lethbridge, Jack Elder, Jack Worrall, Geoff Moriarty, Jim Grace, ‘Lal’ McLennan, Harry Curtis, M. Hickey ( ANFC), and Harry Brereton (VCA). The pallbearers listed at the service, included Jimmy’s former team mates Percy Parratt, George Shaw, Cliff Lethbridge, Gordon Rattray and Ed Buist.‘

The Age’ newspaper made special mention of Percy travelling from Colac to attend Jimmy’s funeral.

In the days following the sad news of Jimmy’s death, Fitzroy FC went to great lengths to publicly express its sorrow at the loss of one of its ‘favourite sons. It is known, that the club organized a testimonial function and raised £350.00 (pounds) to donate to members of the Freake family.
The Annual Report of the FFC carried the following statement regarding Jimmy …

“Jim Freake was modest to a degree, ever ready with a helpful hand and a word of advice to the young players and extremely popular everywhere.”


LISTED AMONG THE GREATS AT FITZROY

Jimmy Freake is listed as equal fourth on the all-time goal kickers of the Fitzroy Football Club (1897- 1996) as shown:-
626Jack Moriarty(1924-33)
576Bernie Quinlan(1978-86)
452Garry Wilson(1971-84)
442Jimmy Freake (1912-24)
442Alan Ruthven(1940-54)
411Richard Osborne(1982-92)


In 2002, the names of Jimmy Freake and Percy Parratt were added to the list the ‘Fitzroy/Brisbane Lions and Officials Association Hall of Fame’.

Although Jimmy was nominated, as a forward, in the ‘Fitzroy Team of the Century’, he was not selected. His team mate and ‘fellow traveller’, throughout that era of VFL football, Percy Parratt was named on the interchange bench for that team. Jack Moriarty was named full forward.

A FINAL COMMENT ABOUT JIMMY FREAKE

As previously mentioned, one of the aims of Boyles Football Photos is to ensure that the deeds of players, of those early times of VFL football, live on. The name ‘Jimmy Freake’ is rarely heard today; but he is another footballer of a by-gone era who deserves to be recognized and remembered despite the ‘march of time.’

The great challenge for lovers of Australian Rules football, despite all the glitz and hype of modernity, is to preserve the exploits of past wizards of the game like Jimmy Freake, Percy Parratt , Chris Lethbridge and a host of stars who played football with passion and integrity.
In bringing this story to a close, there is no doubt of the mighty contribution that Jimmy Freake made to FFC and the game of football…

“Founded in 1883, the Fitzroy football Club won eight premierships and probably produced more champions than any other clubs…Jack Moriarty, Percy Parratt, Jim Freake , Hayden Bunton, Wilfred Smallhorn, Dinny Ryan, Allan Ruthven, Alan Gale, Kevin Murray, Bernie Quinlan, Paul Roos and many others.” Jim Main.



END

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