[Article 16698]The Jim LEIS Story

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If ever a player had the perfect rookie season, Jim Leis would have to be up there as one of the best.

 Arriving at Lidcombe Oval in 1980, Jim went on to have a stellar year. Playing in the lock position, he represented City Seconds, played for New South Wales in the inaugural State of Origin match at Lang Park.

Jim was also selected for the Australian Team that toured New Zealand and was just one game away from playing in the Grand Final.

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I was absolutely flabbergasted to be honest, I thought I would be playing Reserve Grade at Wests and maybe get the chance to play a couple of first grade matches’.

Jim, whose heritage can be traced back to Germany, was born in 1958 and spent the first six years of his life in the town of Tenterfield. His family then moved to Tamworth where he began playing Rugby League while attending Catholic School.

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He also played Soccer between the ages of 12 and 16 before returning to rugby league with the North Tamworth Bears.

Jim represented Country in 1977 and 1978 and although an injury ruled him out of Country selection in 1979, he did get the opportunity to play for Northern Division against the touring Great Britain team. GB 20 beat Northern Division 11.

In 1978, Jim trialled with North Sydney, and was offered $1000-a-season for three years.

‘I wouldn’t walk out the back door for $1000. I was an aircraft engineer in Tamworth and if they found me a decent job in the same industry, I would have gone’. St George called me about playing for them and as I was a mad Saints supporter, I was very keen…but they never rang me back’.

Former Easts, Balmain and Western Suburbs player Russell Worth, who was coaching North Tamworth at the time, advised Jim to head to Sydney.

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Russell Worth playing for Wests in 1974

 ‘Russell said that if I didn’t go, I would regret it later’.

Meetings were subsequently organised with Balmain and Wests.

Keith Barnes (Balmain Secretary),  never called back and Wests made a reasonable two-year offer’.

With a number of players leaving the Magpies, Jim was given the opportunity to immediately play First Grade and it didn’t take long for people to take notice of him. In a game against Penrith at Lidcombe Oval, he scored four tries as Western Suburbs defeated Penrith 27-24.

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I was used to the intensity as I had played against Sydney and representative teams, but biggest difference for me was the speed of the game’.

Representative Selectors also took notice of Jim, selecting him in City Seconds for the annual clash against Country and later in the Australian squad that toured New Zealand where he played in 3 of the Tour games against provincial sides.

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Jim’s perfect rookie season continued with selection as Lock Forward in the Inaugural State of Origin played at Lang Park on 8 July 1980. His opposite No 8 was none other than the King…Wally Lewis.

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‘It was the fastest game I have ever played in. I didn’t think much about the occasion but I remember someone spat on me when we arrived at Lang Park. I didn’t concentrate too much on Wally because I was looking at Arthur Beetson…one of the best players I have seen’.

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John ‘Dallas’ Donnelly and Jim Leis.

Upon completion of the representative season, Jim returned to the Mighty Magpies and played an integral role in their march towards the Grand Final. The Magpies initially went down 22-17 to Canterbury before eliminating St George 13-7. Unfortunately, they played a red-hot Eastern Suburbs team in the preliminary final as Eastern Suburbs ran riot to run out convincing 41-5 winners.

I was devastated that we had to watch the Grand Final instead of playing in it. We had beaten Canterbury quite convincingly twice in the premiership but lost to them in the semi-finals. We just didn’t turn up against Easts’.

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Jim was named the Dally M Lock-of-the-year, Rookie of the Year and runner-up in the Rothmans Medal…an outstanding achievement capping off a sensational debut season!

 Jim approached the 1981 season with an obvious great deal of enthusiasm and optimism however shoulder, hamstring and knee injuries saw him play only 14 games. He was offered a good deal to play for Penrith under coach John Peard in 1982 but remained loyal to Wests for half the money and went on to play 23 games for the Magpies playing an integral role in helping them finish in the top five.

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 Jim moved to Canterbury in 1983 and had a good season with the Bulldogs playing in 16 matches. Unfortunately, due to a training accident in 1984, where he put his hand through a glass door in the gym, his appearances were somewhat restricted.

 ‘While I was out injured, the Club promoted a youngster by the name of Paul Langmack and the rest is history’.

 Jim made his way back in to the team and came off the bench when the Bulldogs defeated the Eels in the major semi-final to reach the Grand Final however he did not play in the Decider with Coach Warren Ryan electing to use Darryl Brohman and Geoff Robinson.

With his injured knee continually causing problems, Jim played mostly Reserve Grade in 1985. At the end of the season, he wasn’t sure what to do and rang up Terry Fearnley, who coached him at Wests…a few years earlier.

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He eventually signed with Cronulla in 1986 playing under legendary coach, Jack Gibson who was keen to draw on Jim’s vast experience. Unfortunately, injuries saw him restricted just nine First Grade matches in two seasons.

After 101 First Grade games in the NSWRL, Jim headed north and Captain-Coached Macksville in 1988 & 1989. He then returned to coach North Tamworth in the Group 4 Rugby League competition, where he ended up pulling on the boots on a few occasions.

 He later coached the Under 16s before serving in the Club’s Committee and later President.

 Throughout his footy career, Jim continued his profession as an Aircraft Engineer, initially with General Aviation and then with QantasLink for 21 years.

He is currently semi-retired, however occasionally works for Event Force at various entertainment venues.

Jim has three children and six grandchildren and calls Umina Beach home these days with his partner Megan.

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As a kid, Jim was a keen collector of football cards and indeed featured on a number of cards himself.

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 ‘It was the ultimate for me to feature on a football card. I was a mad St George supporter and one of my heroes was Ted Goodwin. What a thrill to play alongside him at Wests’.

 Jim is still very much involved with Rugby League as a Committeeman with Pratten Park Magpies and only recently, he was appointed to the Wests Tigers Heritage Committee, although divides his loyalty and always attends Canterbury Reunions.


We’ll always claim Jim as a Wests Magpie though!

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NOTE: Thanks to Terry Liberopoulos of www.rugbyleaguereview.com for the use of the text in this story.

























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