There was a time in Russell Goldfield Jack’s life when Richmond’s President Maurie Fleming was a regular visitor to his house in Bendigo.
The teenager’s Chinese-Australian mother Gladys would serve tea to Maurie on each visit but according to Russell she could not fully understand what Maurie was offering and why he was so persistent in asking her son to join the Richmond Football Club.
Russell had won the trophy for the Best and Fairest player in the 1949 Victoria Schoolboy Carnival in Melbourne and was on the radar of the powerhouse VFL Club.
Eventually Fleming gave up on his quest to sign Russell and left the Jack house empty handed. Russell could not make the move to Melbourne because he had to help his sick mother take care of their big family of 9 children.
Russell Goldfield Jack was born in Bendigo in 1935, the son of herbalist Harry Louey and Daisy Gladys Ah Dore who was the daughter of Samuel Ah Dore, Bendigo’s much-loved market gardener.
Harry Louey Jack arrived on a steamship from Hong Kong in 1899 as a 17-year-old, and worked as a storekeeper on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne before moving to Bendigo to work as a herbalist and greengrocer.
From the moment Russell started at Long Gully public school, he began kicking a football in the playground and his skills were further developed playing kick-to-kick in a vacant block of land across from his school.
Russell captained the Long Gully School football sides including many wins against their fierce rivals California Gully and recalls: ‘We had no choice but to play football in winter and cricket in summer, so why not give it a good go.’
He has fond memories of catching the tram as an eleven-year-old to watch Eaglehawk playing in the Bendigo League and one player stood out: ‘I remember Ian Chinn playing for Eaglehawk who had all the skills and a big kick,’
‘We knew he had Chinese background which was exciting.’
Russell continued playing football at Bendigo Tech and in 1949 he was selected to play for the Bendigo regional school’s team, travelling to Melbourne to play in the Victorian Schoolboys Carnival.
His high-flying marks attracted attention and he won the trophy for the Best and Fairest player in the carnival, ahead of future legends Collingwood’s Thorold Merrett and Carlton’s John James.
At the age of 17, he was promoted directly into the Eaglehawk senior men’s team, playing on the same ground that his grandfather Samuel Ah Dore had graced in the 1896 Eaglehawk v Bendigo charity game.
Instead of finishing his final years of high school, Russell joined the Railways as a boilermaker, ending his short lived Eaglehawk senior men’s footy career after a single season, retiring at the age of 18 explaining: ‘When I look back, I think I would have made it in footy but as a boy in a Chinese family I had obligations that went beyond sport.’
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