Jim Read was a bloke who didn’t revel in the glory of the past even though he was part of the most glorious moment in St Kilda’s history.
Jim suffered a massive stroke this morning and died at the age of 76.
His sudden passing has come as terrible news for his many friends and former teammates.
He played on the wing in our 1966 Premiership team and was also a member of the side that played in the 1965 Grand Final. He played 76 games and kicked nine goals in a career that spanned 1962 to 1967.
His great mate Kevin Billing had spoken to him the previous day and he had been in fine form.
When I visited Jim a couple of months ago, he was self-effacing when talking about the framed Saints jumper on the wall which was with the premiership medal from that day in 1966. Jim and his wife Anne had downsized and moved to a retirement village. He said that the framed jumper and medal had been stored under a bed and he had been reluctant to put it up because it seemed like showing off.
He and Anne laughed about the “uniqueness” of the medal and pointed to the scratches on its surface. “Years ago I didn’t realise that the kids had played with the medal in the backyard and dropped it."
The jumper wasn’t the ’66 version. He had swapped that with his opponent Peter Patterson after the game. Jimmy gave Patterson’s jumper to one of his six sons.
Jim always maintained his love for the Saints and was a very strong supporter of our Past Players and Officials function along with his great mate Kevin Billing. When the Saints returned to Moorabbin a couple of years back, he and Kevin addressed the playing group in the middle of the ground in a memorable moment.
Jim came to St Kilda from the rich recruiting ground of East Brighton, the club which also produced fellow premiership winger Jeff Moran and Carl Ditterich, along with many others in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jim was a hard-bitten type of footballer who was proud of his place in history, but didn’t wallow in any over-emotional reminiscences.
“I don’t get emotional about it. I think I was probably lucky to be in the right place at the right time," he said.
"For me it’s something of great pride and when I see any of them today it is like seeing a brother. I don’t think I’ve ever had a harsh word with any of those guys.”
Jim was interviewed for the Icon Archives book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1966 flag win written by Bruce Eva and myself in 2016.
The following extract is a tribute to Jim Read.
Jim Read wasn’t a household name in a team of big names.
But he joked that he could have helped Ian Stewart win a Brownlow.
Often when the winger wheeled onto his left foot in the hurly burly of midfield play he was identified by TV commentators as Ian Stewart and Read pondered whether umpires made the same mistake. He joked with Stewie that the umps may have credited him with a few extra kicks along the way. Certainly there were some identification problems among statisticians and when modern day stats men scanned through the tape of the 1966 Grand Final they credited Read with 13 kicks instead of the 17 he was allocated at the time.
“I think they might have credited Stewie with a few of my kicks. Every time I kicked on the left foot they used to call me Stewie. He reckons I probably helped him win the Brownlow one year!”
Read is a firm believer that the events of the previous year had a huge impact on what transpired in 1966.
“I’d say that preparing to play in ‘65 helped us tremendously. After losing the year before it really did hold us in good stead. In 1965 we didn’t really know how to prepare for it. That’s the thing that Jeansie said about ‘65 – we had people coming down from the bush and from interstate and your mind wasn’t really on the job.”
Read played on Alec Epis in the 1965 Grand Final. He was pitted against Essendon – the team he barracked for as a kid – “I thought I played all right.”
Read may have come to St Kilda from one of its most traditional recruiting grounds – East Brighton – but his beginnings in the game were anything but orthodox.
“I never started playing Australian Rules Football til I was 15. I was born in Bondi Junction. I lived in Sydney as a kid and played rugby until I left there when I was 14.
Where I lived was across the road from Hurlingham Park and I went to East Brighton and asked for a game.”
Read broke into St Kilda’s senior side in 1962 and on the day before the game he was pictured in his job as a compositor setting up the team line-ups page of the Football Record alongside Colin Sleep who was also making his debut on the wing for the Lions.
While Jim was a comparatively permanent player in succeeding seasons, he could easily have missed out altogether on a place in the famous 1966 team.
“I hurt a knee late in the year. I’d had an operation a few years beforehand, and every now and again it would play up, but in those days they didn’t have the knowledge that they have today.
“When I came back I went straight back into the seniors. Rossie Oakley hurt his knee in the second semi and I got his place in the preliminary. Being a wet day it didn’t put pressure on the knee as much. I didn’t have the most consistent season in 1966 but leading up to the finals I was starting to get a lot fitter and more confident with myself.
“Probably 1963 was my best year until I injured my knee in the second last home and away game against South Melbourne.”
While the breaks went Read’s way at the most crucial point of the year that wasn’t the case for fellow East Brighton boy Carl Ditterich.
“I remember Carl hit Daryl Peoples and he got up before the team and apologized. I was disappointed for him because I’d known him for a long time since I was 15, knew his mum and dad very well and played at East Brighton with him in the under-15s.”
Read was a bit player in one of the most dramatic moments leading up to the finals series. In the final round he was the man who made way for Darrel Baldock to launch a memorable saving act for St Kilda.
“I remember I was the one who got dragged and Doc came on. I think I made a mistake and Jeansie was waiting for someone to make a blue so they could bring Doc on! I can still remember the roar – he was a very popular man. I knew he’d had a bad knee for a while.”
Read lost his place in the second semi, but Ross Oakley’s knee injury changed everything.
“I had to wait til the Thursday night when they read the side out, he took three or four of us aside at the end of training and he kicked the ball out and we had to go and get it and bring it back. I was pretty lucky to get back with Ross going out.”
Sodden conditions for the preliminary final suited Read.
“I liked the wet weather and by then I had a couple of bad knees and was starting to slow down a bit.”
A picture of Jim taking a relaxed drag on a cigarette after coming off in the last quarter tells us of a different time.
Prior to the 1966 Grand Final Read identified a determination not to let a premiership slip for a second year.
“Before the game in the rooms I remember it was pretty quiet. I thought we were a pretty good chance because you could see it in some of the guys’ eyes that we weren’t going to lose this one – it wasn’t going to happen again.”
Read said that in the desperate final stages he thought St Kilda had enough control to win it.
“I played on the wing on the side where Alan Morrow marked it when Bobby Murray kicked it out to him. If he had missed it I was going to mark it!”
The sight of Tuddenham bursting out of defence was one he remembers vividly.
“When Tuddy broke clear it was a bit of a worry. He could have run another 100 metres and had a shot, but he probably just wanted to get the ball down the forward line as quickly as he could. I was in front of him when he took off. I was probably 40 metres away from Bobby Murray when he took the mark. He was a great mark.”
Read thought that in Morrow, Murray picked the right option to kick to. When Morrow marked and the siren sounded, Read was jubilant.
“I heard the siren and grabbed him. The feeling was just relief and a lot of elation. It was something you can’t describe.”
After the game he gave an unknown child some good souvenirs.
“I remember there were a lot of kids in the rooms. I gave my boots and socks to some kid. I don’t know who the kid was – he would have been about six or seven.”