Every year Ballarat’s ‘Young Sportsperson of the Year’ is awarded the ‘Wunhym Trophy’, named in honour of East Ballarat’s Jack Wunhym, who played elite Australian Rules football and influenced the lives of many in his coaching career.
John (Jack) Stevenson Wunhym was born on May 30, 1908, 14 days after Chinese-Australian pioneer Wally Koochew made his debut for Carlton.
Jack’s grandfather, David Wun Hym was born in 1839 in Canton and migrated to Australia in the 1870’s where he married Englishwoman Elizabeth Martha Sally who was born in Gloucestershire.
Together they settled down in Ballarat, merged the family surname to Wunhym and raised a family of 9 children in Golden Point, the heartland of Ballarat’s Chinese community
Jack was a second generation Wunhym footballer, with his uncle Willie a pioneer who played for the Golden Point Rice Eaters whilst also being the captain of the Ballarat Chinese team.
Jack dominated junior sport in Ballarat before moving to Sunshine Football Club in 1924, subsequently signing with Footscray.
He would play a total of ten senior games before moving to Yarraville in the VFA in 1929 where he played 88 games over five seasons, scoring 17 goals. The Herald described him as Yarraville’s “mainstay” and late in his stint he became the first Chinese-Australian to captain a VFL or VFA team.
Jack’s peak season came in 1932 when his form earned him selection for the VFA Allstars team to play the VFL Allstars, a showdown of the rival and competing Melbourne professional leagues.
The VFA led by 1 point at half time and went down valiantly by 8 points in front of 31,000 fans packed into Carlton’s home ground Princes Park.
Jack was also a crucial part of Yarraville’s first two finals series including 1933, where they came third on the regular season ladder and lost unluckily 55-52 to Port Melbourne in the first semi-final.
In the midst of his golden period, the Sporting Globe paid tribute to Jack in 1933: “Jack Wunhym has been one of the outstanding followers in the Association this season. He plays a hard game but fair, and his stamina enables him to carry on in the most rugged company.”
Jack Wunhym played in an era where it was common for VFL & VFA players to captain-coach country sides at the end of their playing days.
He played and coached in and around Ballarat including Redan, the Golden Imperials, Maryborough and famously coaching Ballarat North to their first victory in the Ballarat Football League in 1946.
Ballarat North historian Stanley “Digger” Roberts has fond memories of Jack Wunhym:
‘Jack was highly respected as a coach and was the architect of our first premiership.’
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