Jack Titus – Australian Rules Football Player
All sorts of changes, for example, a schedule that contains more games, makes comparing football players from different eras problematic, but certain players left marks on the game that are indisputable signs of greatness. One of those is Jack Titus (b. 9 March 1908, d. 19 April 1978).
Titus played for the Richmond side in the Victorian Football League, the main predecessor of today’s AFL, for almost 20 years, from 1926 until 1943. He managed to persevere for all that time despite, at 175 cm and 65.5, being considered short and light, even in those times when players were not trained and developed physically to the maximum extent common today.
His combination of ball-winning ability and that uncanny sixth sense of understanding the flow of the game seemingly before the events on the field had actually unfolded compelled Richmond to find playing time for him. The Tigers maintained hopes that Titus would gain some bulk with age, but even after retirement, when players often swell from lack of the extreme exertions common to football, he remained trim and fit for the rest of his life.
Playing forward, Jack Titus did not permit his lack of physical credentials prevent him from scoring prodigiously throughout his 294 game career. Lacking just six games of achieving the 300-match milestone, he managed to wind up with 970 goals, placing him sixth on the all-time list, more than 40 ahead of number seven on the list, Matthew Lloyd. Titus’ goal scoring prowess is the top mark for the Richmond Tigers. His other team records include most Grand Finals appearances, most finals goals, and most consecutive games, all accomplishments that would belie the belief that smaller players have no value in football.
His talent first attracted notice when he was playing with Richmond’s local club of the Metropolitan Football League. He was just 17 when, despite concerns about his size that probably would have precluded his being a prospect nowadays, he was invited to play for the Richmond seconds.
Jack Titus spent his entire senior level career with Richmond, wearing Guernsey # 12. He made his debut in 1926, at the age of 18 and he was 35 when he called it a day in 1943. That first season, he managed to get onto the field for only 5 games, scoring one goal. That dropped to one game and zero goals in 1927, but he started an upswing the following year, making 10 appearances en-route to a 26 goal season.
Titus would start to produce real dividends for the Tigers in 1929. He played in 19 games and had 54 goals for a 2.84 goals per game average, which was a foreshadowing of bigger things to come. He garnered three Brownlow votes, a tally that he would equal in three more seasons, and surpass with five in 1931 and eight in 1941, those placing him towards the head of the list.
From 1929 forward, he was never shy of 17 games, with 20 being something of a norm, until 1942, when he was again at 17, and 1943, at the conclusion of his career, where he appeared 14 times. The Tigers would win 199 times during that span from 1926-1943 and Titus would conclude with a 3.30 goals per game average, helped considerably by four years where he scored beyond 80 and the year 1940, where he hit the century mark.
A closer look at the 100 goal 1940 season reveals that Titus victimised South Melbourne for seven, Hawthorn and Geelong for eight and St. Kilda for nine in his 241st game in round 17. That figure led the league that season. He would show his disregard for the Hawthorn defense the following year, scoring 10 in round six and eight in round 17. Regular performances of similar calibre allowed him to record his second highest season goal total, 87 over 19 games.
Despite his contributions, and those of his competent teammates, Richmond endured some frustration and heartbreak during his career, along with some VFL pinnacles.
Jack Titus and Richmond would lose the Grand Final to Collingwood in 1927 and 1928. Collingwood would again get the better of Richmond FC in 1929, when the Magpies would hold Titus scoreless, marking the coup de gras on three consecutive years where the Tigers could not find a path to gain the upper hand.
The attempt to break the Grand Finals frustration found Titus spending playing time at flanker and also in the pocket, but it would require until 1932 for Richmond to break through, squeezing out a 13.14 (92)- 12.11 (83) win over the Carlton Blues.
That victory was the start of a period of relative dominance for Titus and Richmond; however, they were defeated by the South Melbourne side in the 1933 Grand Final by a margin of 42 points. Titus was held scoreless, even as his teammate Bob Pratt put up three goals to earn the leading goalkicker designation for the league.
Titus would be granted a measure of revenge in the 1934 Grand Final when Richmond had a rematch against South Melbourne. Over 65,000 spectators at the MCG watched as the Tigers won by a margin of 39 points. The game was the seventh time over the previous eight seasons that Richmond had made a Finals appearance, with 1932 being the only other victory. Titus would supply six goals, totally erasing the taint from the prior year’s shutout. He was the team’s leading goalkicker for the season.
The story of Jack Titus was one of year-in year-out consistency. As he progressed into the latter stages, he set marks for most consecutive games up to that time, surpassing the previous mark of 191 to set it at 204. His final year with Richmond, 1943, looked to be one where he would attain the 300 game and 1000 goal milestones, but a serious injury, the first of his lengthy career, derailed that ambition and caused him to miss playing in what turned out to be the team’s fifth premiership. The Tigers decided that his career was done and the team began the process of assembling a side that did not include Jack Titus for the first time in 18 seasons.
Titus returned in 1945 to play a season with the VFA club Coburg. He kicked 119 goals and returned in 1946, retiring mid-season.
He was inducted in the Richmond Hall of Fame in 2002, 30 years after he died. He deservedly has a place on the Richmond Team of the Century and the Australian Football Hall of Fame, established in 1996, where he went in as a part of the inaugural class.