Jim Lisle. A dual international. One of the most influential players of the 1960s, Lisle played predominantly five-eighth and centre.
Ronald James (Jimmy) Lisle was born on 9 September 1939 at South Grafton, the son of diary farmers. As a small boy, he learned the hard life of a dairy farm. It was real pioneering in those days – no electricity, the home lit by kerosene lamps, his father and mother milking 70 cows night and day.
Jim always said that it was a real toughening-up period in his boyhood, but grateful to his parents for his early training and upbringing. His mother dreamed of Jim achieving big things in his life, and her son did not let her down, going on to great heights as a dual Rugby Union and Rugby League International.
A student at South Grafton Public, then Grafton High School, he was an outstanding athlete, representing in football, cricket and athletics. From there he attended Sydney Teachers’ College, and gained his Diploma of Physical Education. During this period he played Rugby Union at the college.
Leaving college he was appointed Sportsmaster at Homebush High School and joined Drummoyne Rugby Union Football Club in 1959. He gained State representation in 1960, teaming with the legendary Ken Catchpole, and they were acclaimed the best halves combination in many years.
In 1961, besides playing for NSW against Queensland, he was chosen to play against the visiting New Zealand All Blacks team. He represented Australia in three Tests against Fiji at the end of the year, and won selection in the Australian team to tour South Africa where he played two Tests against the mighty Springboks, playing inside Michael Cleary.
Along with Cleary, he made the code switch after the tour, and joined the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 1962. After just one first grade game, Jimmy was chosen to play for NSW against Queensland, and three weeks later made his international Rugby League debut in the third Test on 14 July against the powerful visiting Great Britain team at the SCG. Australia won the game 18-17 but Great Britain had won the first two Tests.
At the end of season 1963 he was selected in the all conquering Australian Kangaroo tour of England and France, although he did not play in any Tests on the tour.
He was officially made Souths’ first grade captain in 1964, and that year won the Sun-Herald award for the best and fairest player, the prize being a Falcon car. That year he was selected to play for Australia in the three Tests against the visiting French team.
Australia won all three Tests comfortably. In the first Test, he played five-eighth, but played in the next two in the centres partnering the champion Reg Gasnier. He captained Souths in the 1965 Grand Final loss 12-8 to St. George at the SCG before a record crowd of 78,056.
During the year, he toured New Zealand with the successful Australian team, and in that country was rated the best five-eighth and utility back in the world. His Souths coach Bernie Purcell nicknamed him ‘Tin Legs’ because he had problems with his hamstrings, but always gave 120 per cent a game. His cover defence featuring his famous diving tackles was brilliant.
He played at five-eighth in the 1967 winning Souths grand final 12-10 over Canterbury Bankstown Berries (now Bulldogs), with Bob McCarthy’s intercept try just before half-time proving the difference. However new coach Clive Churchill opted for John Sattler as captain.
Mid-way during 1968, Souths signed Western Suburbs Magpies' five-eighth Denis Pittard, and he was instrumental in Souths winning back-to-back premierships defeating Manly 13-9 in the Grand Final. Churchill tried Lisle in the centres, but a recurring hamstring injury ended his career before the end of the season.
When the Souths’ Dream Team was announced in 2004, Lisle was named five-eighth ahead of Alf Blair and two times Rothmans medallist Denis Pittard (1969 and 1971).
Besides Homebush High School, he also taught at Randwick Boys High, Bass Hill High, Orara High, Coffs Harbour, and Wyong Technology High before his retirement in 1999 aged 60. For his 60th birthday, his son Adam booked a restaurant and organised a bus-load of Souths team-mates and wives to come up from Sydney as a surprise birthday. ‘They came up in the Souths Juniors bus and parked right outside the restaurant’, said Adam.
In late February 2003 Lisle went into hospital with inflammation of the heart, the result of a virus, and died of a massive heart attack on 1 March 2003.
"Dad had never been sick one day in his life", said Adam.
Jimmy Lisle played 100 first grade games (seven tries) and six reserve grade games for Souths in seasons 1962-69. He was inducted as a Life Member of the South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club in 1992.