Career : 1903 – 1908 & 1910
Debut : Round 1, 1903 vs Collingwood, aged 32 years, 42 days
Carlton Player No. 145
Games : 77
Goals : 9
Last Game: Semi Final, 1910 vs South Melbourne, aged 39 years, 180 days
Height : 179 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 74.5 kg (11 stone, 10 lbs.)
DOB : March 21, 1871
Club Captain 1905 - 1907
Premiership Player 1906, 1907, 1908
Captain twice in Carlton’s glorious Premiership treble of 1906, ’07 and ’08, James Edward ‘Jim’ Flynn was a skilful, versatile player for the Blues, and a dynamic on-field leader whose fine career stretched into his late thirties.
Born in Benalla in northern Victoria, Flynn began his VFL senior career - aged 25 - at Geelong in 1897. By then he had also turned out for Benalla District, Collingwood in the VFA, and Canterbury. In seven seasons with the Pivotonians, he had racked up 72 games and 22 goals without experiencing finals football. Meanwhile, Carlton’s similar lack of success had led to the master-stroke appointment of former Test cricketer Jack Worrall as club secretary. In fact, Worrall was to quickly become the game’s first real coach, when he demanded (and was given) responsibility for all facets of the team’s performance.
Worrall’s single-minded determination to lift the Blues from the doldrums soon had him scouring the country for football talent, and Jim Flynn was one of his prizes. Promised a real shot at football glory by Worrall, Jim agreed to swap clubs and arrived at Princes Park in 1903. Although not particularly tall at 179 cm, Flynn was an intelligent and versatile follower who was always looking for ways to counter larger opponents. A natural athlete with a good spring and sure hands, he often sharked the taps of his opponents by feigning to jump for the ball, but intercepting it himself. He kicked long off either foot, and developed into an outstanding leader.
In Flynn’s first season, Carlton climbed from sixth on the ladder to third, and Jim’s impact was such that he was appointed vice-captain for the following year - to fellow ex-Geelong ruckman Joe McShane. And when McShane stepped down at the end of 1904, Flynn was his popular successor. Incidentally, Jim's debut was Carlton's 100th game in the VFL.
By 1906, Jack Worrall had assembled the team of his dreams. With stars from goal to goal and a powerful ruck division led by Flynn and ‘Pompey’ Elliott, the Blues were minor Premiers, before sending Melbourne’s northern suburbs into raptures with a 49-point demolition of Fitzroy in the Grand Final. The full story of Carlton’s historic first flag win can be found in our feature article The First Of Many. Remarkably, Flynn was 35 by Grand Final day, and still today remains the oldest Carlton player to have reached the 50 game milestone.
In 1907 Flynn’s private business interests began to impact on his football commitments. He approached Worrall with an offer to relinquish the captaincy, but the coach would not agree. He did however allow Jim time off late in the season, before recalling him for the finals. Carlton were minor premiers again and lined up against South Melbourne for the flag, with their captain at centre half-back. In a torrid, physical clash, the Blues triumphed again by just 5 points – with Flynn and his ruck replacement George Johnson sharing the Best on Ground honours. The full story of this game is outlined in a Blueseum feature story, found here.
Fred ‘Pompey’ Elliott succeeded Jim as club captain in 1908, leading the Blues into the finals three wins clear of Essendon. Earlier, Flynn had told Worrall that he intended to retire before the end of the season, but the canny coach convinced his veteran warhorse to be on standby, ‘just in case’. Sure enough, on the eve of the finals, Flynn was back. Playing on a half-back flank, he was as good as ever in the Blues’ crushing semi-final victory over St Kilda, and equally as valuable the following week when Carlton completed their fabulous hat-trick of Premierships with a fighting nine point victory over a plucky Essendon.
Those who thought that Jim’s fine career must surely have finished after that third flag were in the majority, but all were mistaken. Almost two years later, Blues captain-coach ‘Pompey’ Elliott caused a sensation when he recalled Flynn from retirement to play in Carlton’s 1910 Semi-Final side against South Melbourne. The wily veteran was badly needed, following the sensational dismissal of three prominent players; Doug Gillespie, Alex Lang and Doug Fraser, who had all been accused of accepting bribes and dropped from the team. Gillespie was later exonerated, but the other two were found guilty and given long suspensions.
Carlton went into that fateful Grand Final in turmoil, and lost by 12 points as Jim Flynn came to the end of an auspicious football journey at the age of 39. It is difficult to imagine how much more could have been packed into his 77-game career with the Navy Blues.
Aged 84, Flynn passed away on the 21st August, 1955.
Worrall on FlynnFormer Carlton coach Jack Worrall writes about Jim Flynn:
"It is really extraordinary that in the small but select band of the most excellent exponents that the game has seen that J. Flynn should be the only two-footed artist. It seems almost inconceivable, and for that reason, and also for the fact that he was a great leader, he is entitled to place among the immortals. No place came amiss to him, and when Carlton won the premiership in 1907 Flynn came down from St. James for the finals when he was close on 40 years of age, and exhibited all the pristine vigour and judgment,being undoubtedly the best player on the ground, while his handling of the team was wonderful. How many men have been capable of such a feat? Of the chosen names he is the only leader (except that in his later years McKenzie captained Brunswick) - the best captain since the days of Alex Dick - and one of the best and most finished all-rounders the game has produced."
(Australasian November 03 1923 p29)
"I wonder how many there who would agree with me regarding the best player in those champion Carlton teams, 1906-7-8.
They were a band of athletes, with many specialists and all-rounders, perhaps the best combination that has ever been seen on a field. And if it were put to the test there is not one man in one hundred who would place Jim Flynn as the best man of the bunch.
Yet, it was so, for he could play anywhere, and hold his own with any man in any branch of the game. Added to his versatility as a player he was a leader of men. He could get the best out of those under him, and he knew instinctively what position on the field would suit any class of player. His knowledge was a result of study and concentration, and did not come in a day. He was a man of many parts, and a great all-rounder."
(Trove: Australasian September 03 1932 p7)
"Jim Flynn, of Carlton, was the ideal captain in my opinion. He had a peculiar career, being slow to mature as a player and leader, and, as a result, I should say, lasted longer as a player than most men, being aged 38 years when he led Carlton to victory in the final of 1908, being easily the best man on the ground.
He first tried with Geelong - Henry Young being his personal friend - and failed to make the grade. Then he had a run with Collingwood, and, while he looked like becoming a champion at any time, he never settled down at Victoria Park.
Carlton was finding its feet at the time, and Flynn joined the ranks. it was Carlton's salvation. He fitted into the team like a glove, and had the confidence of everybody, players, committee, and supporters alike. He did not prove a great captain straight away. It was his playing career over again. Yet, when he did come into his own, he was unsurpassed. His judgment was remarkable, he could play anywhere, and he helped everybody.
He was a natural centre half-back, a splendid centre man, with a 50 yard kick with either foot, was a good runner, a great follower, and a dangerous forward, as he could both mark and kick. He was an inspiration to the men under him, and had the knack of pulling the side together when required, with always an eye on the weakest parts of the machine, helping by advice and example. Flynn was the best captain that has come under my observation, a question of evolution, and he led Carlton to victory in 1906-07-08."
(Trove: Australasian, June 13, 1936 p76)
"Tell Jack Worrall To Send For Jim Flynn"Flynn was bought back to Carlton and this day (Round 18, 1908) played his first game for the the year. In 1908 Carlton were going for a record breaking three premiership in a row. Perhaps this recall was a master stroke by coach John Worrall on the eve of the finals, as Flynn played well in the final series.
However, was the recall originally suggested by Frank "Silver" Caine? Caine had missed most of the second half of the season waylaid with a mystery illness.
The Herald August 21 (p2) 1908 carried this item.
"Footballers and the public in general will regret to hear that Frank Caine, the Carlton forward, is lying dangerously ill at his home in Lancefield. Mr. J. Worrall, secretary of the club, is receiving daily bulletins of Caine's condition, and the latest states that his condition is extremely critical. Mr. H. Nurse, of Lancefield Junction, has kindly sent me a letter to the same effect. The other night, just previous to passing into a delirious stage, Caine's thoughts were for his team, and he remarked to those at his bedside "Tell Jack Worrall to send for Jim Flynn for the finals."
Milstones100 VFL Games : Round 2, 1905 vs Collingwood
50 Carlton Games : Round 8, 1906 vs Melbourne
LinksArticles: Carlton's Hat Trick Heroes
Blueseum: Summary of Flynn's playing career | Career Breakdown | Captains | Flynn's Blueseum Picture Gallery