Fantastic finds: Jack Sheedy's 'My Football Life'

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Beer, biff and legends – we look back at how Aussie Rules footy used to be, as told by Western Australian football legend Jack Sheedy.

Debuting for East Fremantle in 1942 at the age of 16, Jack Sheedy went on to play 338 games for East Fremantle and East Perth, as well as South Melbourne in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

Nicknamed ‘Mr Football’, Sheedy also coached 261 West Australian Football League (WAFL) matches and won five WAFL premierships, three of them as captain-coach.

In 1969, Sheedy and journalist Darcy Farrell collaborated on a book, My Football Life: Incorporating the Modern Fundamentals of Australian Football. Now held in the National Archives, the book combines anecdotes from Sheedy’s career with opinions and advice on playing the great game.

Clobbering players (and fans)

‘Gentleman’ Jack Sheedy’s bruising reputation and infamous on-field encounters fill many pages.

While Sheedy admits that on ‘odd occasions’ he had ‘clobbered a few players illegally’, he maintains that his tough playing style was part of a ‘determination to win’.

He also attributes his aggressive approach to his time playing in the VFL, claiming that the ‘niceties’ of the WA competition were knocked out of him.

Even the spectators weren’t safe from Sheedy’s fists. ‘I wasn’t going to be abused by members of the public,’ he recounts, ‘so I planted a few and almost started full-scale riots’.

Bumping, beer and a snug guernsey

My Football Life includes twelve pieces of advice for every footballer, from schoolchildren to league players.

Sheedy covers the fundamentals, such as dedication, kicking and, of course, bumping. But he also recommends a healthy diet, saying ‘fats, sweets, and too much beer will mean added weight’.

Mr Football also emphasises the importance of looking after your boots and having a well-fitting uniform: ‘The guernsey and shorts should fit snugly, not too large so as to hamper the player’s movements and not too tight so as to be restrictive’.

Considering such advice, it’s surprising that Farrell was rejected when he tried to register the book with the Postmaster-General’s Department, which offered reduced postal rates for publications of ‘literary and educational character’.

Farrell was told that ‘an examination of the publication has revealed that its contents fail to satisfy Departmental requirements in respect of either of the categories mentioned’.

However, the department kept a copy for ‘record purposes’, which is why this vintage sporting book is now in the collection of the National Archives.

Read Jack Sheedy’s My Football Life on RecordSearch