Jack Shute our First Club President’s Rugby Pedigree
By Paul Treanor
Jack Shute was instrumental in the establishment of the Eastwood Rugby Club and was our first President as well as our first Life Member. His sister kept a scrap book on his playing days for the Western Suburbs Club (now part of West Harbour) from 1920 to 1922 which his son Robert (Rob) has in his safe keeping. Rob has kindly made this record of his Dad’s playing days available to us.
In a review of the players to take on the Springbok side of 1921 an article written for the Stock and Station Journal best sums up Jack as a rugby player.
“Jacky Shute – the find of last season. In 1919 was playing junior football; but last year came into the NSW side in place of Farquhar, and was the only one who effectually put the “Indian sign” on the famous “All Black” wing – Percy Storey. Diminutive, ginger and plucky, afraid to tackle nothing and a straight runner.”
Although details on Percy Storey are now sketchy it is thought he was the Jonah Lomu of his day. A hard running winger who had a reputation of running through rather than around smaller opponents. Jack handled him a bit like Ben Coady took care of Parramatta’s Taqele Naiyaraviro earlier this year. In 1921 Jack Shute was 20 years old and weighed 11 st. 4 lb. (or for the French amongst us 71.67 kg).
Jack Shute was an old boy from Parramatta High School. With the ending of the First World War rugby was looking at re-commencing its competition that had been halted during the conflict. While playing for Eastwood Jack, as a 17 year old, was selected in a Junior Rugby Representative side in 1918 to play a curtain raiser for a game organised between Glebe- Balmain and a Combined team. In 1919 he was later among a group of about eight players from Eastwood who were subsequently approached by Western Suburbs who were looking to put a team together to compete in the Sydney Premiership. He was not only a great defender but also a regular scorer of tries. Just what you need in a winger.
His performances soon came to the notice of the NSW selectors and he was quickly playing for his State. He made the State side in 1920 and the following year missed out on been selected in the side to tour New Zealand. However injuries saw the touring team short of numbers and an SOS was sent for reinforcements. Jack Shute was one of two replacements sent and he arrived in time to take his place in the historical Test match in Christchurch. The side would have the best NSW touring record against New Zealand winning ten out of eleven matches including the Christchurch Test.
Following his success in the Christchurch Test Jack was selected in the NSW side to play The Rest in a trial for selection in the NSW team to play the visiting New Zealand sides in 1922. The game was played on the King’s Birthday holiday, Monday 5th June 1922 and Jack Shute would score two tries and retain his place in the NSW
In The Rest side was University’s Prop Robert Shute – no relation. During the game Jack tackled the University forward in what was a regulation tackle but Robert fell heavily and had to be taken from the field. Robert later died in Hospital. His death so shocked the rugby community the Shute Memorial Trophy was established and it would evolve into the Shute Shield. The trophy we still play for today.
The Inquest into Robert Shute’s death found it to have been an unfortunate accident. Robert’s father, through his solicitor at the Inquest, declared they accepted it was an accident and no one was to blame. His mother took the extraordinary step of writing to Jack ten days after the accident. A letter that the Shute’s have kept until this day.
The letter said:
June 15th /22
“My Dear Boy – In the midst of our own sorrow we have so often thought of you, and I just feel I would like to write and tell you that you must not grieve too much over what happened to our darling, it was just an unfortunate accident, and no one was to blame in anyway, & we feel very sorry so much has been said about it for your sake, as everyone says what a good clean player you are, and like our own Bob a true sport. Thanking you very much for your kind sympathy.
Program for Western Suburbs Vs. University Saturday 3rd June 1922.
Program NSW Vs. The Rest Monday 5th June 1922.
Jack Shute’s rugby career was short lived as injury and the need to put food on the table saw him retire from playing and start a long and successful international business career. The skills he gained from playing rugby along with his administrative and business acumen saw him steer Eastwood on its path to glory. He is held in high regard by the Eastwood Rugby Club and his legacy lives on through the success and position the club holds within Sydney Premiership Rugby.
The Shute family continued their association with Eastwood and remain heavily involved in rugby as well as being keen Eastwood supporters. Jack’s son Douglas played for Eastwood straight out of school in 1956 including some time in First Grade. He had been chosen in the Combined Associated Schools 2nd XV in his last year at school in 1955. In the early 1980s he was Vice President of the Eastwood Rugby Club. Tragically in 1986 Douglas had a fatal heart attack on the rugby field playing touch, aged 46.
Rob Shute is Division One Representative for Subbies and involved with Knox Old Boys Rugby Club. His eldest son Nathan is a referee who takes charge of some lower grade Premiership games from time to time. Rob’s youngest son Chris was a talented sportsman who played for the 1986 Eastwood Rep team which won the State Championship in that year. He went on to the Australian Institute of Sport for three years and represented Australia at the World Juniors Athletic Championships in 1994. Speed certainly runs in the family.