By sports editor Russell Bennett
The Beaconsfield football community is in mourning after the sudden passing of one of its biggest icons, the great Jimmy Read, at just 76 years-of-age.
He will always be remembered as a St Kilda immortal, having lined up on the wing in the club’s first – and so far only – premiership side, back in 1966.
And Read’s achievements at Beaconsfield are nothing short of legendary, and he was awarded life membership of the club in 1988.
He was captain-coach from 1972 to 1975, and served as coach again in 1976. Over that period, he took the club to the senior premiership in 1974, along with three other finals appearances.
Then, from 1980 to 1982, he took the club to back-to-back flags in ’80 and ’81, and a runners-up in ’82.
After taking the club to the senior finals once again in the early 1990s, he was named coach of Beaconsfield’s Team of the Half Century in 2000.
In a heartfelt tribute to the Beaconsfield Football & Netball Past Players and Officials Facebook page, legendary club historian Lawrie Canning explained just how revered his great mentor truly was.
“He also coached a number of Beaconsfield junior teams, with many of those players later graduating to the senior ranks,” Canning wrote.
“It wasn’t just his coaching record – his legacy is reflected by his continuing influence on the Beaconsfield Football Club, with a number of his players going on to coaching or administration roles at the club.
“Jim’s close association with so many of his Beacy players continued, and he always enjoyed catching up at reunions or chatting with old teammates.
“Jim was certainly held in high esteem by all players and clubs that he had come in contact with over many years of local football involvement, and Jim had certainly enjoyed his recent move back to the local area with Ann.
“Our sincere condolences to Jim’s wife Anne; sons Jamie, Darren, David, Steve, Robert and Glenn; and all of Jim’s family.
“Rest in peace, ‘Black Duck’.”
Back in April, the Gazette spoke at length with Read about the famous ‘Battle of the Creek’ rivalry between his beloved Beaconsfield, and Berwick.
Read isn’t just arguably the most influential figure in Beaconsfield footy history, like fellow triple premiership coach Leigh Clifford he also had a profound impact on some of the biggest names who’ve starred in ‘The Battle of the Creek’.
“I went to Beaconsfield to coach in 1972 – I’d moved back after I’d been coaching Hamilton, and I’d worked with a guy who was on the committee at Beaconsfield and I coached there for about six years, gave it away for three, and was asked to go back and coach in 1980 and we were lucky enough to win the premiership,” he explained.
Read recalled how his side so dramatically turned the tables in the grand final, after being comprehensively beaten by the Wickers earlier in the finals series.
“In the second semi Berwick beat us by about 12 goals,” he said.
“Of course, we had to rev the team up a bit and we changed a few things around and the boys knew they hadn’t played well – they were very disappointed – but I said they could still make the grand final, and not only make it but win it.
“Berwick might’ve been a bit over-confident about what happened in the second semi, which I’ve seen happen before, and the boys played their utmost best and we were lucky enough to take the points.”
The turnaround in Beaconsfield’s form in the two finals against Berwick that season was nothing short of incredible.
But Read knew what his men were capable of.
“I’d seen it happen before over the years – in fact it happened to us at Beaconsfield in 1973,” he said.
“We were beaten in the grand final after winning the second semi by about 10 goals, so I’d seen it happen before and I reminded a few of the guys who played then and in 1980 (the likes of skipper Wayne Goodes) – it’d happened before, it could happen again.”
Key to Beaconsfield’s success in 1980 was the return of a number of significant players who’d been playing elsewhere seasons prior.
One such player was Wayne Goodes, the skipper and star player who’d been instrumental to Beaconsfield’s success in the early 1970s before heading to Dandenong.
“He originally came down to Beaconsfield from Merino up in the western district when he was 17 or so, and he played very well from the first time he played,” Read explained.
“He and Johnny Allan went to Dandenong and came back, and when I came back in 1980 they were just enjoying the club again, so they were two pretty good players who had a bit of experience.”
Read was full of praise for the great Graham Watts, who kicked three goals and was the best on ground in the 1980 South West Gippsland grand final.
“On his day, he was just very hard to stop, and he had one of those days,” Read said.
“Lyn Studham played pretty well in the centre too, but it was one of those games where you couldn’t really pick out one better player than another – it was just an even performance by everybody with a couple of blokes standing out.
“Everyone did what they had to do, and that’s why we won.”
Canning, too, recalled just how impressive Watts was in that era – likening him to the great Haydn Robins of more modern times.
Looking back on 1980 being the only senior grand final matchup between Berwick and Beaconsfield so far, Read said that only served to make it even more special.
“When I first coached Beaconsfield they’d call it ‘The Battle of the Bridge’ and they were just two little country towns in those days so there was a bit of a rivalry between the two – they were great opponents.”
But Read was straight to the point about what he thought of Berwick back then.
“Nobody liked Berwick,” he said with a laugh.
“But they were a very good club and they won a couple of premierships under Darryl Nisbet, who was a great coach.
“But I think a lot of the players he had in that grand final were getting a bit older, and we had a lot of younger blokes who were pretty fit and really wanted to win a grand final.
“After the second semi they had a point to prove – every one of them did.”
Read said that could have been the wake-up call that some of the Beaconsfield players were looking for.
“They were very united blokes and they were just so disappointed that they wanted to do something about it.”
For Read, his side’s turnaround in pressure in those two 1980 finals made all the difference.
“I always tried to teach them that when the other mob had the ball, you’d try to get it back straight away and the only way you could do that was by putting pressure on the opposition.
“It’s a pretty simple game.”
Read looked back fondly on the first of his three flags at Beaconsfield – as captain-coach in 1974 – but the era in the early 1980s clearly carries its own significance.
“When I came back 1980 we won it, and we won it again in ’81 and made the grand final in ’82, so that was a thrill,” he said.
“It would have been nice to win three-in-a-row, but they don’t come around that easily and I was still very pleased with the boys’ efforts in ’82 (ultimately losing to Rocky Clifford’s Doveton side).”
Ultimately, Read, like Canning, even became a Berwick resident.
“I still run into blokes like Tommy Watson and Dicky Tonks from Berwick around the traps, and we always got on well together off the field,” he said in April.
“But on the field was a bit different.”
Still, the respect was always there.
“When Darryl Nisbet coached Berwick and I was coaching Beaconsfield, he knew what he was doing – he’d been around the traps and knew if you went out and smacked blokes that wasn’t going to help you win, anyway,” Read said.
“Darryl and I have known each other for years – his father was chairman of selectors when I was at St Kilda.”
Rest peacefully, Jimmy. You’re sorely missed.