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Jack Cooper
File:Jack Cooper.jpg
Born (1889-02-21)21 February 1889
Fitzroy North, Victoria
Died 20 September 1917(1917-09-20) (aged 28)
Polygon Wood, Belgium
For other persons named Jack Cooper, see Jack Cooper.

John Thomas "Jack" Cooper (21 February 1889 — 20 September 1917) was an Australian rules footballer who played for Fitzroy in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

He died in action, whilst serving in the First AIF, during the Battle of Passchendaele.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Jack Cooper was the son of Fred and Florence Cooper. He was born in Fitzroy North on 21 February 1889, and he attended the Alfred Crescent State School in Fitzroy North.[1] In his youth he was a fine cricketer as well as a highly talented footballer, and went on to be a regular player with the Fitzroy Footballers Cricket Club.[2]

He worked for the company of Fitzroy Football Club's President, D.J. "Don" Chandler, as a storeman.[3]

He and his wife, Margaret Malcolm Cooper, née Fletcher, resided at 38 York Street, Fitzroy North, and had one daughter, Margaret Isabel "Maggie" Cooper (1908-?), who became a teacher.

Footballer[edit | edit source]

A somewhat thick-set man at 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) and 12 st 4 lb (78 kg), Cooper was a champion half-back. Recruited from the local team North Fitzroy Juniors, he played his first senior VFL game for the Fitzroy Football Club against Collingwood on 27 April 1907 at Victoria Park. In his first season he played 11 matches and scored 1 goal.[4]

In 1912, after he had been appointed captain of the Fitzroy senior team,a contemporary report spoke of the tough, speedy, skillful, and tenacious Cooper as follows:

    It would be difficult to select a back man to beat him, although he is rather on the small side. He makes up for his lack of inches with tenacity and pluck.

    He sticks to his man all day with a stubbornness commendable to fighter or footballer. He has great dash — the quality of being able to get to the ball in the lead, which all true backmen must have — and he can handle the ball when he reaches it. Handling a football when running is a fine art. The finished player nowadays does not grab the ball with both hands when he reaches it. He scoops it up, as it were, with one hand, as he continues his run.
    Anybody can pick up a football when he has plenty of time to seize it, but the crack player must be able to pick up the ball without relaxing his speed. Cooper is an expert at handling the ball but, above all, he is a battler.[5]

He played in the Fitzroy team that won the 1913 premiership[6] by defeating St Kilda 7.14 (56) to 5.13 (43) in the 1913 Grand Final Match;[7] he was one of Fitzroy's best players in that match.[3] He was the Fitzroy club's best and fairest player in both the 1911 and 1914 seasons (see Fitzroy FC honour roll#1910–1919), and he was the Fitzroy team captain in 1912, and its vice-captain from 1913 to 1915.

He also played eight games for Victoria,[3] including the match against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval on 10 August 1912, when he captained the Victorian team that lost to South Australia 9.8 (62) to 6.7 (43).[8]

In his career with Fitzroy he played 136 senior games and scored 8 goals.[9]

He played his last senior VFL game for Fitzroy on Saturday 11 September 1915, in the 1915 Preliminary Final,[10] that was won by Carlton 6.18 (54) to 5.8 (38).[11]

Dealings with VFL Tribunal[edit | edit source]

He was reported once in his playing career, in the 14 August 1909 match against Carlton at the Brunswick Street Oval, for charging and striking; he was suspended for 12 weeks.[12]

The Australian Training Units Team.
Jack Cooper is the eighth man (seventh player) from the left, in the top row.

In the 26 June 1915 match against Carlton at the Brunswick Street Oval, a former Fitzroy player, the Carlton centre half-back and team captain Billy Dick,[13] was reported for striking Cooper; Dick was suspended for 10 weeks.[14]

Soldier[edit | edit source]

Leaving his employment as a storeman, he enlisted in the 8th Battalion of the First AIF on 8 November 1915[15] and left for France on the troopship Wiltshire on 7 March 1916.[16]

In France, Cooper saw action in the Battle of the Somme. He was only in the trenches for a short time when he was so badly gassed that once his immediate discomfort had been dealt with, he was repatriated to England to allow him to recuperate.[17]

Having recuperated fully, he played for the (losing) Australian Training Units team in the famous October 1916 Exhibition match that was held in London, just before returning to active service in France. Most likely through the effects of the gas, Cooper's throat continued to give him a lot of trouble (he almost lost his voice) and, once again, he was repatriated to England.[17]

Although he was sent to Aldershot for officer training,[17] he never rose above the rank of Lance-Corporal.

Death[edit | edit source]

He returned to France once more and was killed in action in Belgium, at Polygon Wood, during the Battle of Passchendaele on 20 September 1917.

His remains were never recovered. He is commemorated in the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, and his name appears at panel 52 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Main & Allen (2002), p.39. Photograph of Alfred Crescent School, Fitzroy North, circa 1908
  2. Main & Allen (2002), p.40.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Main & Allen, D., (2002), p.41.
  4. AFL Player Statistics (Round by Round): Fitzroy Football Club 1907.
  5. Main & Allen (2002), p.40; although they are quoting directly from what they characterize as a "contemporary report", Main & Allen do not provide any further identification of their source.
  6. AFL Player Statistics (Round by Round): Fitzroy Football Club 1913
  7. AFL Statistics 1913 Season Finals.
  8. Ross (1996), pp.79,93.
  9. AFL Statistics: Jack Cooper.
  10. AFL Player Statistics (Round by Round): Fitzroy Football Club 1915
  11. AFL Statistics 1915 Season Finals.
  12. AFL Tribunal Records 1909.
  13. Dick had played 53 senior games and kicked 40 goals in three seasons with Fitzroy (1908–1910) before transferring to Carlton, where he played another 100 senior games and kicked another 35 goals (1911–1918) Blueseum Biography: Billy Dick; Full Points Footy Biography: Billy Dick; AFL Statistics: Billy Dick.
  14. AFL Tribunal Records 1915; Blueseum Match Report: Round 10, 1915.
  15. He was in the intake referred to as the Fifteenth Reinforcements First World War Embarkation Roll: Private John Thomas Cooper (4753).
  16. First AIF, 1st Division, 2nd Brigade, 8th Battalion (Victoria).
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Main & Allen, D., (2002), p.42.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Main, J. & Allen, D., "Cooper, Jack", pp. 39–42 in Main, J. & Allen, D., Fallen — The Ultimate Heroes: Footballers Who Never Returned From War, Crown Content, (Melbourne), 2002. ISBN 1-74095-010-0
  • Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897–1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN 0-670-86814-0

External links[edit | edit source]

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