HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
|Date of Birth||1st July 1944|
Player 1963-1977 (East Perth 1963-67, Carlton 1969-76, Glenelg 1977)
Games 254 (East Perth 104, Carlton 136, Glenelg 13, WA 1)
Goals 265 (East Perth 78, Carlton 165, Glenelg 21, WA 1)
Honours: Carlton Premiership player 1970, 1972; East Perth Fairest and Best 1966; Hayward Medal (SWNFL) 1961, 1962; EP Team of the Century 1945-2005; Indigenous Team of the Century 2005; Australian Representative “Galahs”1968 Australian Football World Tour
The brilliant ball handling and kicking skills of Syd Jackson might be better remembered had a debateable suspension not cost him a Sandover medal in his first league season. There were nevertheless many highlights in his 5 WAFL seasons before a longer VFL career in which he built a reputation as one the cleverest and most dangerous half forwards in the game. He enjoyed dual premiership success with the powerful Carlton club and as the only indigenous player in that competition for the majority of his career he played a pioneering role for his people. He suffered the racism that characterised football in those less enlightened times but his gentlemanly demeanour and popularity did much to alter perception.
Sydney James Jackson ascended to football greatness from very harsh childhood circumstances. He was the last of 3 children born to part Aboriginal Scotty Tulloch and partner Amy near Leonora in the northern goldfields. As a three year old, Syd was stolen by authorities and made a ward of the state along with his two sisters. The children were separated and Syd did not see them or his parents again for more than 30 years. By this time the only thing they shared was blood. Staying briefly as a toddler with a white family called Jackson, Syd was given their surname and a nominal date of birth (1st of July 1944). He was then sent 980 km south west to Roelands Native Mission near Bunbury. This place of strict discipline and occasional violence was his home until the age of 15 but the one saving grace was football. In the highly competitive Roelands environment, young Syd began to develop significant skills in the Australian game.
The greatest positive influence in Jacksons early life was Dr Ern Manea, then President of South Bunbury Football Club and later a three time mayor of Bunbury. He took Jackson into his home and treated him like a son. He also did much to mould and promote Syds football career which blossomed. By the age of 18 he had won two Hayward medals as the best player in the South West National Football League.
Steered to East Perth in 1963 through a rapport between their officials and Manea, Jackson became an overnight sensation. Playing in the centre, his uncanny ball handling skills and brilliant kicking with both feet attracted much favourable comment. After Round 5 the Football Budget noted that he “turned the game for his side and outpointed Denis Marshall” and after Round 13 he was noted to have “had the call over Ray Sorrell at the centre to play a key role in his teams victory”. Unfortunately, during a blockbuster Round 16 encounter with West Perth, Jackson was reported for striking and subsequently suspended for 2 weeks. Speaking in 2011 he recalled. “I hardly did a thing. I was running with the sun in my eyes and put my hand up and made light contact with a guys head. It was disappointing to miss a medal on that”. Sorrell and Jackson subsequently finished equal first in the count with 20 votes and whereas the East Fremantle man would have won on a countback, ineligibility cost at least a retrospective medal some years later.
Despite this disappointment, Syd Jackson continued to impress and after twice finishing runner up for the club fairest and best award he topped the count in 1966 from Keith Doncon. The East Perth Annual Report noted “What a colossal year this young player has had. He is the most dynamic centre man in the state at present and one of the most courageous and brilliant young footballers this state has seen” Perhaps surprising was the fact that Jackson did not first represent Western Australia until 1967 when WA resoundingly defeated South Australia. In five years at East Perth Syd Jackson never played reserves football and played 104 games from a possible 112.
A friendship between Dr Manea and Ron Barassi, established during a Perth trip by Melbournes 1964 premiership side, saw Jackson depart for Carlton at the beginning of 1968. As was frequently the case prior to the national era however, a clearance dispute ensued and Jackson had no choice but to stand out of football for a year. During 1968, Jackson acted as Carltons runner and missed a premiership opportunity when the Blues broke a 20 year drought. Once eligible to play in 1969, he quickly stood out for his genius on a half forward flank. Jackson saw opportunities that few others did and dazzled with his ball handling, kicking and evasive skills. He was regarded as one of the best on-the-run drop kicks in the game and had a highly developed goal sense. He played an important role in the epic come from behind 1970 Grand Final victory with a freakish left foot snap goal from the boundary during the third quarter fightback and also contributed well in another premiership win in 1972.
After 8 seasons and 136 games for Carlton, Syd Jackson accepted an opportunity to play in the SANFL with Glenelg (13 games in 1977). His senior career thus spanned 15 seasons and 3 states during which he played 254 games. In retirement he returned to Victoria and remains very proud of his legacy and status as a trailblazer for Aboriginal footballers. “I’m just so proud that a lot of Aboriginal players who came after me appreciated I’d gone before them and made it a bit easier for them”.
His people may now appreciate even more the brilliance and beneficial impact that Syd Jackson had on the game of Australian Rules Football as he worthily becomes a 2015 inductee into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame.