and a son?s devotion
If you have a copy of the Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players handy, open it up and look up a player who went by the name of Parsons, he played for St George in 1926. His entry is a modest one:
PARSONS, J (St George 1926) 4 games (0pts)
As I said, it?s a modest entry.
Like most people, I didn?t pay too much attention. I simply added the name to my own list of players. Indeed, there are many players who are long forgotten, and no doubt there will be countless more in the future.
I wouldn?t have given J Parsons another thought if it wasn?t for a call I got last month from a gentleman introducing himself as Ray Parsons. Ray was keen to talk about his father Jack who played halfback for St George in the 1920s. I opened my own records and included the words ?Jack? and ?halfback?.
But Ray had more.
He told me all about his dad and after some discussion Ray entrusted me with his family memorabilia: a few old news clippings, a team photo, and a beaut souvenir paper napkin from a St George v Kurri Kurri trial match in 1926.
Click on the napkin for larger image
Ray spoke of his father?s friends and casually mentioned Arthur ?Snowy? Justice, former St George captain, League official and legend.
?My dad was always good mates with Snowy. The two men would sit and talk for ages.?
Jack played alongside other legends such as the fastest forward in the game, Ernie 'Curly' Lapham and ?the great destroyer? Aubrey 'Jockey' Kelly, and Saints first ever try scorer in George 'Bluey' Carstairs, all of whom were household names in their day.
But Ray saved his fondest memories for his own father.
Jack Parsons was born in 1904 and always lived in St George. His mother was Headmistress at Bexley Primary School and according to Ray, Jack was considered a rough character.
?As were most footballers,? Ray laughed.
Jack played Rugby League as a young teenager where he starred for the Bexley Hotspurs in 1919 [pictured]. He was graded at St George and came to notice as an exceptional halfback in the second grade side of 1925. In the same year, young Jack married and the couple had a daughter.
The St George Call wrote about Jack in glowing terms and described the second grader as ?the best of the bunch?. The Truth was equally impressed stating that Parsons was ?the best back in the side?.
It was in 1926 when Jack, 22, finally got his chance in the top grade. But the St George team that year were not much to write home about, finishing on the bottom of the ladder.
In The St George Call, the enigmatic ?Forward? described in detail the kicking skills and speed of this new ?nippy? halfback. ?Parsons, who for his first game in First Grade performed exceptionally well. He was easily the best back.?
Wooden spooners in 1926, the Dragons Slayers went on to become runners-up in 1927, but they achieved this remarkable turnaround without Jack. Like so many players of the day, he left the game to support home and family. A halfback of genuine ability and with so much promise, Jack Parsons never played first grade again. Instead, he departed Rugby League to concentrate on his engineering business, and in 1928, Ray was born.
?My father always loved the game.? Ray recalled.
?Even after he stopped playing he?d take us to Earl Park to see Saints play.
?He told me his two greatest memories were getting married and being selected in first grade at St George.?
Jack passed away in 1973, aged just 69.
During our discussion Ray told me of the many fine players that were being forgotten. In particular, he wanted people to know that his father was a good player and if not for family responsibilities, he might have gone on to be a great player.
It?s hard not to be touched by a son?s devotion, even if that son is old enough to be my own grandfather.
I told Ray I?d do my best and put it in print somewhere. Jack may mean little to the modern League follower, but we should never forget that every player experiences something special, a different type of greatness, when first selected for first grade. And this special moment extends to family and follows through for generations afterwards.