John J. (Boss) Simons

Year Inducted 2019

Secretary, WA Football Association 1905 -1914;
Founder Young Australia Football League (later YAL)

Honours: WAFL Life Member 1919

The man whose name was commemorated on the top tier of the three-tier stand at Subiaco Oval, might well be regarded as second only in importance to WAFL founder HR Dixson as an administrator of Australian Rules Football in Western Australia. Certainly, it must be said of John Joseph Simons, that but for his vision, hard work and tenacity, WA youth of today might well be kicking a round ball rather than an oval one.

During his 10 years as Secretary of the WA Football League, Simons confronted head on, a push by British schoolmasters to ban the playing of Australian Rules in favour of Association Football (Soccer). His founding of the Young Australia Football League (later YAL) to promote and foster the Australian game in schools ultimately won the day and ensured its pre-eminence as a football code in Western Australia.

JJ Simons was born at Clare, South Australia in 1882 and came to WA in 1896 at the age of 13. Although not himself a footballer of note, he was a passionate Australian nationalist and became Secretary of the North Fremantle club, representing it as WAFL delegate in 1903 whilst employed as a clerical worker by Sandover and Co. Appointed Secretary of the WA Football Association (now WAFL) in 1905, he immediately recognised the threat posed by Soccer with some 28 schools having already banned Australian Rules in favour of the British game due to the recruitment of British schoolteachers.

Mounting a powerful campaign to promote Australian Football, Simons was able by 1910 to report to the WAFL that he had won over three colleges, 18 state schools and two private schools in the metropolitan area from the British code. By clever expansion of the YAL into the ex-scholars region, thus providing a pathway from school football through to second tier and senior clubs, Soccer was forced into substantial decline by 1914 when Simons relinquished his WAFL position to pursue newspaper and political interests.

A tall, confident and charismatic figure, Simons was one of the first two men to represent WA on the Australian National Football Council, and was elected a Life Member of the WANFL in 1919 for his outstanding contribution to Australian football in WA.

With the YAL, Simons efficiently led youth tours nationally and internationally and took a leading part in acquiring the hills property of Araluen in 1931. At his death in 1948 from heart disease, Simons was still an honorary director of the YAL and a widely known and revered figure for his selfless work for young people.

Among the many tributes he received was that from Wally Stooke, president of the WA Football League: “His intense love of everything Australian was manifested in many ways and in none more so than the love of our national game of football, for which he worked so hard and enthusiastically in the years from 1905 to 1914. The solid foundation and progress of our game owes more to J.J. Simons than any other man who has been associated with the game in this state.” Even former adversaries such as WC Thomas, Chairman of the British Football Association of WA in the 1905-1910 period conceded that “JJ won a great victory for his cause” whilst remaining friendly “however hot the fight”.

Membership of the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2019 is fitting if perhaps belated recognition for an outstanding administrator of WA Football - JJ Simons – the man who consolidated Australian Rules as the main football code in Western Australia.