Goonellabah’s Jim Parker, pictured with the trophy he won in 1950 for scoring the most goals for Methodist United, was involved in victorious Anzac Cup and Lismore Soccer Association teams in that same year.
Goonellabah’s Jim Parker, pictured with the trophy he won in 1950 for scoring the most goals for Methodist United, was involved in victorious Anzac Cup and Lismore Soccer Association teams in that same year. Jacklyn Wagner

Jim recalls football's early days

JIM Parker played his first season of soccer simply "for a bit of fun" way back in 1949.

And when his teammates signed up for the same reason, it was not a surprise that his Methodist United outfit won the wooden spoon in the Lismore Soccer Association competition.

That was also the first year of registered soccer competition on the Far North Coast.

But the fortunes of Parker's team, featuring players from the Methodist Church in Lismore (now the Uniting Church in Woodlark St) were soon to change drastically the next year.

In 1950, his Methodist United team, just a bunch of churchgoers at the time, amazingly took out both the inaugural Anzac Cup and the Lismore premiership.

It is a story worth visiting with the Anzac Cup about to enter its 63rd season and Football Far North nearing the start of its 64th season after its humble beginnings in Lismore.

A Scottish migrant by the name of George Chalmers was the man responsible for turning around the performances of the Methodist United soccer club, which used to train at the Richmond Hall (now the Red Dove Centre in Keen St).

"George started as our church's caretaker in 1950 before signing up as the team's player-coach," Parker said. "He played for Glasgow Rangers at Scottish Division One level so he worked us hard.

"He got us to hop over trestles with one foot and after training finished we had to run up to the top of Rotary Drive and back."

Parker, 80, chuckled when he recalled soccer balls back then were "made from leather and heavy as lead".

"And the boots we wore came up over our ankles," he said.

The Goonellabah resident met his wife Marie through the Methodist Church where "the teenage girls who played basketball followed us around and we followed them around to their games".

Marie and Jim then started a band to raise funds for the team and they performed at churches throughout the Northern Rivers.

"We sung some classics like Be Beside the Seaside, but being a church team we never drank beer, just milkshakes," Jim said.

Together the pair has seen their family prosper over the years, particularly on the soccer field.

"We have three grandchildren who play in Brisbane and four other grandchildren play with our son Craig at Alstonville," Marie said. "Another of our sons Neil played for a long time and his wife and two kids all play and referee."

Family commitments eventually took Jim away from his beloved round-ball game but he did return to the sport for a good cause in 1972.

"I came back to help the Goonellabah club form a senior team," he said.

"We had a lot of fun growing up - going outdoors to play sport was part of everyday life back then.

"I also played some golf and tennis."

Parker said Charles Bissett, the captain of the cruise ship Queen Mary, had the honours of kicking off the first Lismore Soccer Association game in 1949 which featured Methodist United.

Parker is one of three surviving members from the 1950 dual competition-winning team along with

Lismore local Ron Hill and Gold Coast resident Michael Bell.



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