By sports editor Russell Bennett
Jim Read was St Kilda through and through, but the 1966 premiership-winning wingman had the Tigers in his heart.
And it was Beaconsfield’s 1974 premiership flag (from their era as the Tigers) that was draped over his coffin as his hearse did a lap of honour at the club’s Holm Park base on Tuesday last week.
Read was just 76 when he suddenly passed away recently – leaving behind a legion of shattered admirers.
In fact, due to the restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the vast majority of even Read’s closest family and friends were unable to be there to say their goodbyes at his funeral service.
But – despite having to stay in their cars – they more than made their presence felt at his lap of honour.
Read played 76 games for St Kilda between 1962 and 1967 – including the losing 1965 grand final, and the history-making 1966 premiership.
He spoke to the Gazette earlier this year for a Rivalries Revisited story on the origins of ‘The Battle of the Creek’ – the famous story of Beaconsfield’s rivalry with Berwick.
Read isn’t just arguably the most influential figure in Beaconsfield footy history, like fellow triple premiership coach Leigh Clifford he’s also had a profound impact on some of the biggest names who’ve starred in ‘The Battle of the Creek’ over the years.
“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 to the Gazette back in April.
Read became a three-time premiership winning icon at Beaconsfield – including the 1974 decider as captain-coach.
And 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,” he said.
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.”
Almost fittingly, Read – like his great mate, Beaconsfield historian Lawrie Canning – ultimately lived in Berwick.
One of Read’s sons, Glenn, told the Gazette this week just how instrumental Canning had been in organising the Holm Park send-off for his mentor, Jimmy.
And Glenn also explained that his great mate, and Beaconsfield premiership player Kris Fletcher, also played a key role in organising the day alongside current footy club personnel.
“The turnout was unbelievable, considering it was such short notice,” Glenn said.
“When you can only get 10 at the funeral it was disappointing in that regard, but it was so nice to see the effort Fletch and the footy club went to – Lawrie and the boys went to a lot of effort to get the scoreboard up and running, and blow the siren for him.”
Glenn said it became apparent just how many people his father had influenced.
“It was across a lot of generations as well – some guys played under the old man or were mates with him, and even the younger guys he might’ve coached in the under-17s later on in his career too,” he explained.
“It was younger people too – players he might’ve only coached for one year.
“On Facebook there were heaps of commiserations from guys I played footy with.
“My old man coached me in under-13s and under-15s, and blokes I played with paid tribute to him.
“He was a hard nut – he never backed away from a challenge, and if you weren’t going to have a crack, you wouldn’t get a game. It was the old school ‘kill or be killed’ kind of thing in a way.
“He didn’t mince his words – you knew where you stood. The way he saw it was that if the players don’t respect you, they won’t play for you.”
And one of Jimmy’s biggest legacies at Beaconsfield was that Glenn is the only one of his six sons who isn’t a St Kilda man.
“I just thought when I was growing up, the old man was coaching Beaconsfield and I went to the footy and they were the Tigers back in the day,” Glenn explained.
“He rang me up a while ago – when Tom Lynch from Richmond was doing some silly things and was under a bit of scrutiny, and on AFL 360 Mark Robinson called him a douchebag and my old man rang me up about it. He was furious (laughs).
“But he didn’t really care about me being a Tigers man.
“We started having a slab on Richmond versus St Kilda games and I reckon it was 13 slabs before I finally got one – that’s probably why he didn’t care!”
Jim Read is survived by his loving wife Anne; sons Jamie, Darren, David, Steve, Robert, and Glenn, and their extended families.
Rest peacefully, Jimmy.