Football Far North Coast is about to start its 64th season and an important part of our sporting heritage is shared by people who were part of the first era of competitive football in the local region.
Recent publicity about the inaugural winners of the Anzac Cup, Methodist United (who won the title in 1950), sparked the interest of one person whose memories I was most fortunate to share last week.
Jim Parker was a member of that team and along with well known Lismore resident Ron Hill and Michael Bell (now living on the Gold Coast), they are the sole surviving players. Jim recalled how a group of young men who attended the Methodist Church in Lismore (now the Uniting Church in Woodlark Street) decided to form a team and participate in the Lismore soccer competition when it began in 1949. With the help of several dads and Clarrie Richards, who was an influential figure in local sporting circles, a team was formed with a uniform of white shorts and a royal blue shirt.
The initial season did not see much success as the team finished last of seven sides in first division. The arrival of a new caretaker at the church in 1950 by the name of George Chalmers transformed the fortunes of Methodist United. The former Scottish first division player became captain-coach and earned the nickname 'The Magician' for his sublime skills. And although he was in his early 40s, Chalmers was a class above everyone else in the local competition.
Training began in January 1950 in the Richmond Hall (now the Red Dove building) and for several months consisted of fitness activities such as jumping over trestles and always ended with a run up Rotary Drive and back. The "easy-beats" of 1949 became the superstars of 1950 and such was their popularity that people from the church used to follow them to games, and even started fundraising to help them. Jim said the players even participated in concerts with singing, dancing and acting that proved so popular they were held around the district. On-field success came with a victory in the first Anzac Cup competition ever contested, also claiming the minor/major premiership double. Along the way, the young men even had time to support the girls from the church who played netball (known as basketball at that time) and Jim eventually married his lovely wife Marie, who he had met through church activities. The couple have lived in Lismore since their late teens and were both active members of Goonellabah FC, particularly for juniors. Their love of the game continues today with family, particularly grandchildren, involved as players and as referees. It may be a long time since Jim has graced the field as a goal-scoring winger, but the twinkle in his eye is very evident as he shares memories of playing in a team that has a significant place in local football history.
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