Victoria Park’s brilliant inside-left Jack Conduit was given a rousing send-off prior to his departure to join English Division Two club Blackpool on Friday 2 November, 1934. Possessing boundless energy and a keen eye for goal, Jack is arguably Western Australia’s greatest ever finisher having starred locally in the between the wars era.
Jack put away a remarkable 421 goals in 262 games as Victoria Park claimed nine First Division championships. He marked his State team debut by netting against Czechoslovakia-Bohemia in 1927 and went on tally up ten appearances in the black and gold, scoring seven times, with further outings against China, the England Amateur XI, India and Maccabi (Palestine).
Representatives from the Metropolitan-Suburban League clubs and the Western Australian Soccer Football Association plus members of the wider sporting community were amongst a crowd of about 70 well-wishers who gathered at the Victoria Park Hotel to salute Jack becoming the first West Australian to sign with an English club.
Victoria Park club president B.Walkermeyer praised Jack as both a player and sportsman before wishing him well in England on behalf of the football players and supporters of Western Australia. The 26-year old guest of honour was presented with a gold-mounted fountain pen and pencil from his club-mates, a travelling case from the WASFA and a small book in which everyone present had written their name.
Jack, “in responding to the toast, assured the gathering that on his arrival in England he would endeavour to worthily uphold the traditions of the game in this State. He expressed the hope that other players from Western Australia would be given the opportunity of signing on for English teams” reported ‘the West Australian’ newspaper on 3 November 1934.
It was on board the liner Otranto that Jack, his wife Eileen and their 3-month old son Ronald departed for England two days later, the family arriving in the seaside town of Blackpool early in December. Unfortunately, the inside-left didn’t make a first team appearance during his time with the club and he was released in time to return to Perth for the start of the 1935 season.
Born in Wolverhampton, England, on 23 November 1906, Jack played as a youngster for Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was as a defender that he excelled and gained England Schoolboys selection for a friendly against Scotland, however, he was denied an international cap owing to his departure for Western Australia in late 1920.
Perth City secretary Stan Power invited Jack to join the clubs’ juniors after spotting him kicking a ball about on Perth Esplanade. His progression was swift and by the time of his 17th birthday he’d made the first of what would be 80 senior appearances for Perth City, where he carved out a reputation as a finisher of the highest calibre.
1927 was something of a breakthrough year for Jack. Selected for the State, he featured twice against each Czechoslavakia-Bohemia and China for a combined total of three goals. A five-goal haul against Claremont further highlighted his talent for finding the net with regularity for Perth City, who ended the winter second in Division One.
A switch to Victoria Park saw Jack net ten times against his former club, strike six in a 15-2 hiding of Armadale and bag four in a resounding win over Thistle. “It is doubtful whether a better inside-left is to be found in the whole of the Commonwealth,” reported ‘the West Australian’ newspaper on 28 July 1928. “He is clever with the ball and has wonderful kicking power with either foot.”
At seasons’ end Jack was named the league’s top scorer with a staggering 42 goals from just 14 games. Victoria Park were crowned champions having not lost a game after scoring 115 goals while conceding only 16. The icing was put on the cake in October when Victoria Park claimed the Charity Cup by defeating Subiaco 5-1, Jack helping himself to his teams’ second goal.
Victoria Park went back-to-back by claiming the 1929 Division One title. Jack was again front and centre with 35 goals, amongst them a 30-yard drive into the corner in the final round defeat of Casuals. The season closed out with the south of the river club lifting the Challenge Cup by 4-2 over Caledonian, Jack scoring the final goal.
In March Jack was amongst six Victoria Park players who guided Western Australia to a 5-3 victory over the England Cricket XI. He may not have found the net that day but he made amends later in the year with a double in the State teams’ 7-1 defeat of the HMAS Canberra crew. The following season was somewhat more sombre with Victoria Park placing third in the league and failing to qualify for either cup final.
Jack grabbed all the goals in a 5-0 thrashing of Caledonian on the opening day of the 1931 campaign. 24 regular season finishes put him not only at the top of the scorer charts but also secured Victoria Park the league title on goal difference over Thistle. He stole the headlines in October by scoring twice in ten minutes to guide his team to the Charity Cup, and two weeks later added a Challenge Cup winners medal.
A fourth consecutive top scorer honour came Jack’s way the following year, his 28 goals including three against Caledonian and four against Fremantle Rangers. But he bettered both of those by netting six when the State defeated the Japanese Navy. And to round out the season he scored another hat-trick, this against Thistle, in the semi-final of the Charity Cup, which Victoria Park lifted after defeating North Perth.
Jack’s talents went beyond scoring goals and in 1933 he was awarded the Dunkling Medal as the league’s fairest and best player. “Conduit’s amazing technique and unerring judgement have stamped him as a player of outstanding ability, while his determination and unflagging type of play has revealed his value as a match-winning forward,” reported ‘the West Australian’ on 3 October 1933.
In July Jack made the headlines by marrying Eileen Kiddle just a matter of hours after he gave the “goalkeeper no chance with a shot from 20-yards” to end Caledonians’ unbeaten run. He scored the only goal in October’s Challenge Cup final success over Northern Casuals and the following month repeated that feat when Victoria Park claimed the Charity Cup against the same opponent.
Victoria Park were by now the leagues’ dominant force and in 1934 they made a clean sweep of all trophies on offer, crowned league champions and lifting the Charity Cup and the Challenge Cup. Jack was instrumental in their success, helping himself to a hat-trick in the late season 7-2 thrashing of Thistle and putting away a double in the 8-1 Charity Cup Final mauling of Subiaco.
The opportunity to join Blackpool came as the State team was preparing for the Centenary Soccer Carnival in Melbourne. Jack found the back of the net in a 3-2 win over the HMS Sussex, whose number included seven first class amateur players who were clearly impressed by his performance. Two weeks later came an offer to join the English second division club; within days Jack had accepted.
On being released by Blackpool, Jack returned to Perth where he snared a treble as the State team overcame the Japanese Navy 12-3. He carried that form into the new season, pilling on 14 goals in six games with six of those coming against Thistle. Four more in the final round took his tally to 22 goals and gave Victoria Park back-to-back league titles. He netted again in the 4-1 Charity Cup Final win over Caledonian a few weeks later.
Jack was on-target most weekends of the 1936 season, which Victoria Park again finished at the top of the ladder. Along the way he bagged a hat-trick against Claremont, put away four in an Association Cup semi-final win over East Claremont and struck five against Midland in the last game of the league. However, he couldn’t find the net in October’s Challenge Cup Final which ended 1-1 after 140 minutes, the referee playing four periods of extra-time before declaring the trophy would be shared by Victoria Park and Caledonian.
Victoria Park were rarely troubled in 1937, wrapping up the Division One title without loss, lifting the Association Cup and sharing the Challenge Cup for the second time with Caledonian. Jack put seven goals past Fremantle over two games, scored doubles against Thistle, North Perth, Midland and East Claremont before netting in October’s 4-1 Association Cup Final triumph over Caledonian. In mid-year he featured in the State teams’ friendly with the England Amateur XI.
The following season opened with Jack in red-hot form, netting eight times in the first four league games highlighted by a hat-trick away at Maccabeans. Victoria Park collected the league title thanks in no small part to Jack’s 29 goals, which made him the competitions’ top scorer. October commenced with two appearances, and one goal, for the State against India and closed with the Victoria Park captain lifting the Challenge Cup.
Victoria Park made it six Division One titles in a row by defeating Caledonian 3-2 on the final day of the 1939 season. The highlights of Jack’s year included a four-goal haul against East Claremont and his final State team outings against Maccabi, scoring three times across two friendlies. In the title decider he put Victoria Park 2-1 up only for Caledonian to send the game to extra-time, however, teammate A.Henderson saved the day when he found a late winner.
Jack continued to do what he did best in this final season. The 35-year old chalked up trebles against Northern Casuals and Fremantle before hitting two in the second to last game of the 1940 campaign. Those two goals put Victoria Park in pole position to win the league, however, East Claremont drew level to steal the trophy by a solitary point. Rubbing salt into the wound was that Victoria Park has been deducted two points earlier in the season for fielding an unregistered player.
Jack passed away on 3 April 1985 at the age of 80. In 1996 the Football Hall of Fame Western Australia honoured him as one of 29 inaugural inductees into the Hall of Champions. Eight years later he was named in the Century of Champions, which recognised the State’s 100 greatest players between 1896 and 1996.