Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James William Masters (1892–1955)

by Philip Mosely

This article was published:

James William Masters (1892-1955), soccer player and coalminer, was born on 21 May 1892 at Balgownie, New South Wales, seventh of thirteen children of Alexander George Masters, a miner from Nova Scotia, Canada, and his Sydney-born wife Frances Eliza, née Campbell. He was nicknamed 'Judy', possibly because his mother chose the name during pregnancy, but probably due to his gentleness which contrasted with his three boisterous elder brothers. Many British miners reared on Association football were employed on the coalfields around Wollongong. Judy attended Balgownie Public School where soccer dominated the playground. He captained his school team and, at the age of 12, displaying precocious talent, joined the Balgownie Soccer Club.

Entering first grade at the age of 15, Masters played for Balgownie (1904-11, 1919-29), and for the Sydney clubs, Newtown (1912-13) and Granville (1914-15). About 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall and weighing only ten stone (64 kg), he was all muscle and bone. His toughness, honed by hewing coal, for he had followed his father into the mines, did not equate with roughness. He was never cautioned by a referee in more than 400 club and representative games. As centre forward, Masters was an instinctive player who valued teamwork. Although naturally shy, he was also a leader, progressively captaining Balgownie, South Coast, New South Wales and Australia.

Masters enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 June 1915. Serving with the 19th Battalion, he saw action at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. On 26 July 1916 at Pozières, France, he was wounded in the shoulder. Promoted sergeant in May 1918, he returned to Sydney in August 1919 and was discharged on 31 October. While on leave in England he had met Annie Barraclough of County Durham. They were married at St Michael's Anglican Church, Wollongong, on 23 June 1920 and set up house at Balgownie where they raised two daughters; their son died in infancy.

Between 1923 and 1927 Masters scored 12 goals in 13 international matches, representing Australia against New Zealand (1923), China (1923, 1927), Canada (1924), England (1925) and Czechoslovakia (1927). He was noted for his consistency and netted a total of 351 goals in first-class football. Scoring in the first minute of play for New South Wales against England before 45,000 people in Sydney in 1925 was a high point. He was granted a testimonial in 1928 and hung up his boots in the following year. Having been captain-secretary of Balgownie in 1919-28, he continued to serve the club as secretary, committeeman, selector or coach until 1953.

Masters worked in the Corrimal mine and maintained an interest in local matters. He was bandmaster of the Balgownie Citizens' Band for fifteen years. Following early retirement, Judy (and Annie) visited Britain in 1953 to see Queen Elizabeth II's coronation procession, the Football Association Cup final, and the annual world championship for brass bands at the Crystal Palace, London. Forty years of inhaling coaldust had taken its toll. He died at his Balgownie home on 2 December 1955 of acute haemoptysis brought on by the miner's curse, pneumoconiosis. Survived by his wife and daughters, he was buried in Wollongong cemetery. Contemporaries deemed Judy Masters the foremost native-born soccer player of his own and any previous era. The Balgownie soccer ground was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Grant (compiler), Jack Pollard's Soccer Records (Syd, 1974)
  • Balgownie Publications Committe and J. Fletcher, Balgownie School Centenary, 1889-1989 (Balgownie, NSW, c1989)
  • Soccer Weekly News, 16 Aug 1952
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 1925
  • Arrow (Sydney), 16 Apr 1926
  • Referee, 27 June, 18 July 1928
  • Illawarra Mercury, 20 Mar 1936, 3, 5 Dec 1955
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 4 Dec 1955
  • private information.

Citation details

Philip Mosely, 'Masters, James William (1892–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Masters, Judy

21 May, 1892
Balgownie, New South Wales, Australia


2 December, 1955 (aged 63)
Balgownie, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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