James Aubrey Matthews
7 November 1919
25 June 1999 (aged 79)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 22y 218d
Last game: 22y 253d
Height and weight
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 77 kg
St. Kilda: 16
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
|Total||1940, 1942, 1946-1954||6||3||0.50||—||—||—||—||—|
Born in the town of Culcairn, 50 kilometres north of Albury, Jim Matthews played junior football for Culcairn, West Albury and South Albury before making his senior debut for Albury in the Ovens and Murray league in 1940. He made an immediate impact, and was named as best on ground in the Tigers' Grand Final win in his debut season.
After he enlisted in the AIF in 1942, Matthews' starring performance for the Army against the RAAF in a Services match at Carlton in that year was enough to have him immediately snapped up by St Kilda. He played one match for the Saints' seconds in early June before being promoted to senior ranks for their Round 6 match against Melbourne, selected on a half-forward flank. The Saints had a win in that match and Matthews, "shaped particularly well", according to the Argus's Percy Taylor¹. Hec de Lacy was also effusive in his praise of Matthews in the Sporting Globe, describing him as follows:
"Matthews is a tallish type of centre and a good one. The feature of his football is accuracy in delivery. Matthews is something more than a good player; he is a talented player."²
The following week Matthews kicked a goal and was named in the best players as St Kilda came from behind to defeat Collingwood, and he was prominent again a fortnight later as the Saints upset league leaders Essendon at Toorak Park. Matthews' fifth VFL match was a loss to Footscray, but he was again lauded by Hec de Lacy despite receiving 'extra attention' from the Bulldogs' Len McCankie:
"Another impressive performance was given by Jim Matthews, the former Albury player, on Saturday. In the air he was too good for McCankie, but found the vigorous methods of the young Bulldog rather disconcerting. Matthews' swinging left kicks frequently found Probyn with good results."
Matthews sixth VFL match was his last. Though he played well again as the Saints thrashed North Melbourne, a leg injury forced him out of the side, after which his military service took him back to New South Wales, where he played for South Sydney in the Sydney league. Continuing to excel at the game, Matthews played in the centre for his home state in the 1947 Australian state carnival in Hobart, where he shared the prize for best New South Wales player with another sportsman and St Kilda player of note, Keith Miller.
Like Miller, Matthews was a fine footballer but was perhaps even better at another sport. For Miller it was cricket, but for Matthews it was tennis. He was a top-10 player in his state and he made it through to the second round of the Australian Championships in 1947.
After the war Matthews continued to star in both his winter and summer sports. His football took him back to Albury as captain-coach in 1946, where he was a fine player and leader for many years. He took them to Grand Finals in 1946, 1947 and 1953, taking the Tigers to a premiership in the second of those. In 1946 and 1951, Matthews was runner-up in the Morris Medal count, the Ovens and Murray's best and fairest award.
Jim Matthews' footballing resumé would leave those who peruse it with little doubt that he could have played many more VFL matches than the six he turned out for at St Kilda had circumstances been different.
Author - Andrew Gigacz
1. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Monday 15 June 1942, page 6. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1198128...
2. Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), Wednesday 15 July 1942, page 12. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1803028...