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9 CFC Games Played
0 CFC Goals
Tom Paterson was part of one of Preston’s most well-known early families – and also one of its greatest sporting clans.
The Patersons were huge local figures – and no wonder. The family business was an important part of the local community, and five of the patriarch’s sons would go on to enjoy high profile sporting careers with Preston teams and beyond.
William Paterson arrived from Scotland in the early 1860s and in 1862 set up a ham and bacon curing business. It was, apparently, the first industry to be established in Preston, and played no small part in the suburb’s nickname of ‘Pork Town’ (among the early employees of the Watson and Paterson Ham and Bacon factory was J C Hutton, founder of the famous Huttons hams).
William became an important local figure, spending 25 years as a magistrate at Preston Court and serving seven terms as president of the Jika Jika shire.
His sons, meanwhile, most of whom managed the family business at different stages, set about making their mark on the sporting fields. Robert, James, Tom, Charles and Jack (John) were all talented sportsmen who represented Preston at both football and cricket.
James, better known as Jim, played with Fitzroy in the 1890s and was still good enough to get a game with South Melbourne in the VFL in 1899. He was also a fine cricketer, and he took three wickets as part of a Junior Twenty that played a visiting English XI led by the legendary Dr. W. G. Grace in 1891 and enjoyed a fine career with Fitzroy. The eldest brother, Robert, captained Preston at footy in the mid-1890s
But Tom might just have been Jim’s equal. He was tall and strongly built and a fine all-rounder in cricket. He initially played for Preston District, then Coburg and finally in the early 1900s had a good stint with Carlton in district/pennant cricket before ending up with Fitzroy.
At football, he started playing with Preston in 1896, and established himself so quickly that Collingwood courted him to be part of their squad for the first year of the VFL, in 1897. He did well there too, playing nine games in a debut campaign that saw him play mostly as a follower or occasionally in a key position or pocket. His strength and height made him a formidable opponent, and he went straight into what was a Premiership team, playing the first nine games of the year.
After his debut game against St Kilda, The Age said he had “played well enough to justify his trial”. The Sportsman would later say he was “very smart on the ball”. Against Geelong The Argus said he was “seen to advantage”. Against Carlton, the same paper named him the Magpies’ third best player and said he had backed up the two stars, Monohan and Condon, “in his usual hard-working way”. He played one of his best games against Melbourne: “Towards the finish the powerfully-built Paterson was playing with tremendous determination,” wrote The Argus, “and no one on the side did more just then to try and reduce Melbourne’s lead.” “Paterson followed brilliantly,” said The Age.
Although strong and not afraid of robust play, Tom was also a sportsman, as The Argus noted against Fitzroy: Both Sloan and Paterson, on opposite sides, worked tremendously hard in the ruck, and though the latter more than once used his great strength when there was no occasion for it, he seemed to repent the next instant, and helped his fallen toe to his feet again.”
These are snapshots of what was obviously a promising entry onto the scene. His efforts were even more meritorious because he must still have been dealing with the shock of losing his youngest brother, Jack, who had accidentally drowned in the Darebin Creek in November 1896, while swimming with friends just a week before his 21st birthday.
But Tom surprisingly lost his spot in the team after the Essendon game (there were no reports of injury but it can’t be ruled out), and never regained it. Instead he returned to Preston at the end of the year, and thereafter seems to have had more success – and possibly more focus – with cricket.
Tom Paterson’s first nine games showed enough to suggest there was a decent player there. His family pedigree suggested similarly. Unfortunately we’ll never know why his career didn’t continue after that promising start in 1897.
– Michael Roberts