Fitzroy/Lefroy, Defender, 1917-30
> 112 games for Fitzroy, 1917-25
> Around 50 games for Lefroy, 1926-30
> Fitzroy VFL premiership, 1922
> Fitzroy Best and Fairest, 1922
> Fitzroy captain, 1924-25
> Lefroy captain-coach, 1926-30
> Tasmanian National Carnival representative, 1927 (Melbourne)
> Five representative matches for Tasmania, 1926-27
> Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame Inductee, 1987
A superb defender of great skill and tenacity, Jim Atkinson was a part of the Tasmanian football landscape for only five short seasons, but in that time he established a reputation as one of the finest players of his time in the TFL.
Known as ‘Snowy’ thanks to his conspicuous mop of blonde hair, the Victorian-born Atkinson first played senior football in the VFL with Fitzroy, making his debut in 1917 as the Great War still raged. He played seven games in his first season, including a preliminary final victory over Collingwood, but would miss the grand final the following week as the Magpies turned the tables on the Maroons to win by 35 points. Over the next eight seasons, Atkinson would establish himself as Fitzroy’s first choice Centre Half Back. Despite measuring in at just 175 cm, short for a key position player even for the day, his excellent marking skills and clean ball-handling at ground level made him an extremely difficult opponent to beat. 1922 would be Atkinson’s finest year: playing out of a back pocket, he was named best on ground in the Maroons’ 11-point grand final win over Collingwood, while at season’s end he would be awarded the Mitchell Medal as Fitzroy’s Best and Fairest.
After captaining the Maroons during relatively successful years in 1924-25, Atkinson left Fitzroy after 112 games and relocated to Tasmania in 1926 to take up the role of captain-coach at TFL club Lefroy. He quickly gained a name as one of the finest players in the league, representing Tasmania in his first season, while in 1927 he was a part of the Tasmanian National Carnival team in Melbourne. The Tasmanians failed to win a match at the tournament, although they were involved in two close losses to New South Wales (3 points) and Western Australia (1 point). A player whose career had been marred by constant injuries, observers of the time noted that Atkinson had “broken every bone in his body” over the course of his career, and by mid-way through 1930 the now 34-year-old’s injuries had become so debilitating that he was forced to retire, meaning that he sadly missed out on appearing in Lefroy’s 1930 TFL premiership team.
A fine all-round sportsman, Atkinson was also an outstanding cricketer, playing 26 first class matches for both Victoria and Tasmania between 1921 and 1934. He scored two centuries as an attacking and creative opening batsman, performing well against touring teams from South Africa and England during his career.
After retiring as a cricketer in 1934, Atkinson moved to Launceston where he became the licensee of the Royal Oak Hotel for 15 years. He died in Beaconsfield in 1956, aged just 60. For his outstanding records in both football and cricket in Tasmania, Atkinson was inducted into the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame in 1987.