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'Gentleman Jim' - Lest we Forget

Jim Park

show_image.php?name=cfhdl002-072_park.jpg
Career : 1932 - 1940
Debut : Round 4, 1932 vs Hawthorn, aged 22 years, 96 days
Carlton Player No. 492
Games : 128
Goals : 5
Last Game : Round 18, 1940 vs Footscray, aged 30 years, 198 days
Guernsey No. 26
Height : 182 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 83.5 kg (13 stone, 2 lbs.)
DOB : 14 February, 1910
Premiership Player 1938
Victorian Representative 1938

One of the iconic Australian photographs of the 1930’s features Carlton’s Jim Park - his left foot planted in the lower back of his Melbourne opponent, his right leg spread wide for balance - gracefully leaping for a chest mark in a match at Princes Park. A resolute, versatile defender, Park forged a fine career in a back pocket for the Blues, where he marked the opposition’s resting ruckmen and formed a formidable partnership with our star full-back, Frank Gill. Along with centre half-back Jim Francis, Park and Gill were the core of a rock-solid defence in Carlton’s 1938 Premiership triumph over Collingwood. Tragically, Jim was killed in action five years after that memorable Grand Final, fighting the invading Japanese forces in New Guinea.

Jim Park was born in Bendigo, the third son in a large family of four sons and three daughters. His father; Dr. Alexander Park, moved his practice to Moonee Ponds in 1919 to provide better education opportunities for his children. Jim was educated at Melbourne’s exclusive Scotch College, and later at Dookie Agricultural College. He was an outstanding student and a gifted athlete, and it didn't take long before Carlton was made aware of the young man's potential.

He joined the Blues in 1932, and made his senior debut in round 4 of that year in Carlton’s 63-point demolition of Hawthorn. Unfortunately for Jim, this was to be his only game for the home and away season, and he was overlooked for the Blues’ ultimately unsuccessful finals campaign that year.

Standing just under six feet (183 cm), Jim was a natural defender whose pace, anticipation and spring was suited to a variety of roles. Season 1933 saw him begin the season at centre half-back, before an injury to captain Frank Gill required Park to drop back into the last line of defence. When Frank returned to the side for round 17 against Melbourne, Jim shifted across to the pocket and was a revelation, as the Blues thrashed the Demons by ten goals. From that time on, Gill and Park worked in tandem on the Blues last line.

In 1938, Jim was selected in the Victorian state team, then played a pivotal part in Carlton’s long-awaited sixth Premiership victory over Collingwood. Park picked up the Magpies’ champion full-forward Ron Todd in the Grand Final, and held him to three goals – two of which came from free kicks. Rover Jack Hale starred for the Blues, and centre half-forward Jack Wrout booted four goals as Carlton knocked over our fiercest rivals by 15 points.

While studying at Scotch College, Jim had joined the school’s Army Cadet Corps. Afterward, he transferred to the Militia (the forerunner to the modern Army Reserve) and continued his involvement throughout his career at Carlton. In September 1939, when Australia supported Great Britain by declaring war on Germany, Jim held the rank of Lieutenant with the 32nd Infantry Battalion.

Like so many other Australians, Jim Park did not hesitate to volunteer for active service. He played his last game for Carlton at full-back against Footscray at Princes Park in the final round of 1940. After celebrating a 22-point win, (but finishing fifth overall), Carlton bid farewell to our Premiership defender, who enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force in March, 1941.

Park was confirmed in his rank of Lieutenant, and posted to the 2/6th Infantry Battalion. After final training in Australia, Jim’s unit was initially sent to the Middle East, but when the Japanese invaded New Guinea early in 1942, Australia's troops were recalled and sent straight into the thick of the battle to halt the Japanese drive to Port Moresby. On February 9, 1943, 32 year-old Lieutenant James William Park was killed while leading his men into action in defence of an important Allied airfield at Wau.

Jim left behind a wife, Marjorie, and a infant daughter, Joan. On May 8, 1943, before the commencement of the first match of the season, both the Carlton and Richmond teams, their committees and a solemn crowd observed a minute's silence in memory of a man widely known as 'Gentleman Jim.' Later, the Sporting Globe Football Annual of 1947 summed up the widespread sorrow of the football community with this tribute;

Jim Park had the admiration of officials, players and supporters alike at Carlton, for he played the game hard and fairly. He asked no quarter from anyone and he gave none. Yet with all his battling, he was scrupulously fair - a gentleman on and off the field.

It takes courage to step onto a football ground and play the greatest game of all. It takes even more courage to put your life on the line to serve your country. Jim Park was just such a man.

"In a letter to Mrs. Park, referring to the death of her husband, Capt. Harry Gullett wrote:
Many of our finest young men die in such times as these, and well all recognised in your husband such a man as is the finest our country has to offer. He was liked and respected by all, and did his duty in the manner in which we all knew he would. I was with him at the time of his death. It was during an attack on the Japanese position in this area. While giving orders to his platoon he was shot in the heart by a Japanese rifleman and died instantly."
Lt-Col F. G. Wood wrote:
"All officers and men of the unit join with me in mourning the passing of such a fine officer as Jim. He was universally admired and respected, and at all times was an inspiration to his men. During the operations in which Jim met his death he twice led his platoon in attacks against much superior forces, and his work was a material factor in our success."
When Jim was killed another Carlton player, Jim Askew*, was standing alongside him.
(Trove: Australasian June 03 1944 p11)
.* Jim or Joe Askew played in the Reserves 1937-39

Hec de Lacey Remembers

"And Jim Park, Carlton's pride, battling against Gordon Coventry that day Carlton won the premiership in 1938. Also Gordon's last game, by the way.
Jim of the soaring leaps. He played well anywhere. Saw him after the Middle East campaign. He looked tired, but he went on. He and his men straddled a trail and helped delay the Jap sufficiently to save the Wau airstrip."
H. A. de Lacey, fallen footballers - The Sporting Globe August 15 1945 (p14) the date, VJ Day.

Milestones

50 Games: Round 13, 1936 Vs Essendon
100 Games: Round 8, 1939 Vs Collingwood

Articles: The Blues at War | Every Picture tells a story - Signatures from 1935

Precious Gift Perpetuates Park's Memory

Club historian Tony De Bolfo's article on Jim Park's silver plate given to him by Carlton president K. G. Luke on Park departing for the Middle East with his fellow Australian troops.
http://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/2016-04-21/precious-gift-perpetuates-parks-memory

Blueseum: Summary of Jim Park's playing career | Park's Blueseum Image Gallery

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