James (Jock) Francis McHale (1881-1953)

Australian Football Legend and Coach

James Francis McHale, footballer and coach, was born 12 December 1881 at Botany, Sydney, son of John Francis McHale, police constable, and his wife, Mary Gibbons McHale, both from Ireland.

McHale's ironic nickname 'Jock' originated in a cartoon caricature in a kilt during the 1920s.

McHale's fame as 'Prince of Coaches' has overshadowed an equally illustrious playing career (1903-18) as a centreman for Collingwood to which he graduated from the Coburg Juniors (1899-1902). He played 262 league games, including a contemporary record consecutive 191 in 1906-17. McHale played in two premiership sides (1910, 1917), was captain twice (1912-13), players' representative (1911-19), committeeman (1921-38) and vice president (1939-53).

He was 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) tall at 2 stone (76 kg) playing weight. He remained active at the Collingwood Football Club until his death on 4 October 1953 at Coburg. McHale's initial heart attack occurred the day after Collingwood's grand final.

McHale's success as a coach sprang from his love of the club and his uncanny ability to know when players were fit. Reputation and talent meant little to him. Players were selected on the basis of form and willingness to run through walls. He was not a great teaching coach.The McHale method, which never changed over forty years, inculcated machine-like team-play, the main objective of each player being to beat his individual opponent. Although McHale believed in fitness above all, his half-time addresses were inspirational. He did not rehash the first half, but 'could get inside' the players, instilling club spirit. A man who could never abide losing, he perpetuated an insatiable Collingwood tradition: will to win.

Despite a misconception, McHale was not the first coach employed by Collingwood.. Several predecessors included Dick Condon. But he established Victorian Football League landmarks by coaching the team 38 years (1913-50), winning a record eight premierships (1917, 1919, 1927-30, 1935-36), among them a record four in a row, and was runner-up ten times.

Arriving in Melbourne as a boy, he received primary schooling at St Bridget's, North Fitzroy, and St Paul's, Coburg. In 1894-96 he attended Christian Brothers' College (Parade), East Melbourne. Upon leaving school, he was employed at the McCracken Brewery; supervising brewing at the Carlton Brewery, Bouverie Street. He retired in 1947.

He was survived by his wife, the former Violet Mary Angel Godfrey, whom he married in 1909 at Brunswick, and by his son John, a Collingwood player in 1941 and 1943-44. A daughter and son predeceased him. A portrait by Paul Fitzgerald hangs in the Collingwood Social club. Jock was buried in Coburg cemetery with Catholic rites.