Three times a Geelong premiership captain, 'Young Jim' Wilson put in a cameo appearance with Norwood in 1882 and later embarked on an extraordinary career as a racehorse trainer and owner in the manner of his Yorkshire-born father, 'Old Jim'.
'Young Jim' was born at Hamilton, Victoria, on 18 May 1856 and weighed only 25 kg when he started out as a jockey at Flemington on New Year's Day 1869. Not slim like his younger brother Bill, who became a leading rider, Jimmy was a robust 82 kg and Geelong premiership captain 10 years later. He was a member of Geelong's first premiership team in 1878 - the start of three seasons without defeat - and captain from 1879 to 1882, missing a flag only in 1881. Bill was in the team as a rover.
Jimmy helped Victoria defeat South Australia in two matches in Melbourne in 1881. As a footballer he was equally good back, forward or following, and always played his finest game when things were going against his side. Strong of build and will like his father, he was reticent, shunned publicity and formed few friendships. He was not one to start a fight, but if provoked would not step back and as a champion boxer could use his fists to good effect. Like his father he could be abrupt and overbearing but on the right occasion could be relaxed and entertaining, delighting in boisterous practical jokes. He was good at cricket and skilled at billiards.
Jimmy first encountered Norwood when Geelong visited Adelaide in July 1879. The Wilson brothers ran riot in inflicting on Norwood its first defeat, 3.19 to 0.3. Jimmy again was to the fore when Norwood travelled to Geelong for a rematch in July 1880. In the absence of his father, he hosted a reception for the visitors at his family's historic St Albans Stud but did not spare them on the football field. Jimmy and Bill shone as Norwood floundered on the big, slippery ground, failing to score while Geelong amassed one goal 29 behinds.
Wilson made his Norwood debut in the season opener against a new team, Royal Park, at Adelaide Oval on 5 May 1882. The South Australian Weekly Chronicle said that "Wilson, who captained the Geelongs, is well-known to the Adelaide footballing public as one of the best footballers in Victoria." It was a very one-sided affair, with 'Goalpost' in The Evening Journal making mention of "Wilson, Watson, Brimble, Frayne and one or two others amusing themselves by exchanging little marks amidst the laughter of the spectators". Final score: Norwood 5.44 to 0.2.
Jimmy bowed out after the 20 May game against South Adelaide. Despite being penalised for running too far with the ball, he played well in helping a wasteful Norwood get home 1.10 to 0.3. He missed Geelong's first game in Melbourne that season, on 27 May, but thereafter resumed the reins and with brother Bill went on to celebrate a fourth flag in five years.
Jimmy married Jessie, daughter of former MLA George Cunningham, on 10 December 1884. He was declared bankrupt in 1934 as a result of the Great Depression and his Bonny Vale Stud was sold.
When 'Young Jim' died on 16 November 1935, having been forced by illness to miss seeing the Melbourne Cup for the first time in 70 years, it ended the family's amazing success story with all aspects of horse racing. In the Melbourne Cup alone, 'Old Jim' trained the 1873 winner Don Juan, with son Bill in the saddle, and also the 1876 winner, Briseis, while 'Young Jim' trained the 1889 winner Merriwee. 'Old Jim' trained five Sydney Cup winners and 'Young Jim' one.
P Robins Jan 2018