By Peter Argent
In the early 1890s Ernie ‘Jonah’ Jones was one of the many miners in Broken Hill working hard to make a living.
Playing our traditional sports of cricket and football he became a true Aussie all-rounder.
Jones would go on to play Test cricket for Australia and inter-colonial football (four times) for South Australia.
As an Aussie footballer, he represented three Adelaide clubs.
He was a stalwart of South Adelaide’s powerful teams of the 1890s, when he dominated, predominately as a strong marking, dashing defender, although he was capable of playing in the followers’ role or up forward on occasion.
An excellent example of his ability as a ‘goal kicker’ came in South’s 1898 Grand Final defeat of Port Adelaide when he was responsible for five of his team’s eight goals for the match.
The ‘98 premiership win was Jones’s fourth with South.
In 1899, the South Australian Football Association enforced the electorate rule, which had been nominally, but not compulsorily, introduced a couple of years earlier. It meant players were only able to represent the club in whose district they lived.
For Jones, this meant transferring to North Adelaide, where he spent two seasons, the second as captain.
He only played 14 league games for the team they now call the Roosters and a state game against the VFL in his two seasons with the red and whites.
But he is now and forever etched in North Adelaide Football Club history.
The 1900 season proved to be the greatest in North’s history up to that point, as they won their first ever Premiership courtesy of a 4.3 (27) to 1.8 (14) Grand Final defeat of Jones’ former club, South Adelaide.
Jones played at centre half back in this Grand Final and was a resolute performer in a strong North defence in front of a crowd of 7000.
In 1901 Jones was on the move again, this time to the Port Adelaide Magpies, where he played a key role in helping the club improve from last place the previous season to a Grand Final loss against Norwood, in what proved to be Jones’s last ever game.
In the summer passion of leather and willow Jones was a tearaway quick. He played 19 Tests for Australia from 1894 to 1902, taking 64 scalps at a respectable average of 29.01, and a best of 7/88.
In total he played 144 first class matches, collecting 641 wickets at an outstanding average of 22.83, but his action was controversial and complained about in both England (in 1896) and Australia.
Jones was first no-balled in a match between South Australia and the visiting English side in 1897–98. Phillips again no-balled him once in the second Test of that series, becoming the first bowler to be called for throwing in a Test match.
He toured England with Australian Test Teams the 1896, 1899 and 1902 Australian winters.
“Of all the fast bowlers the Australians have sent to this country, I think Jones was the best in my time,” old Cambridge and England captain and Yorkshire player, Sir Stanley Jackson said for Wisden.
“He was one of the most powerful men I ever met. I believe he was a miner, and in his early days o the tour was very wild in his delivery.
“I went in first with W. G. Grace and we had to dance about a bit. One ball from Jones hit W. G. under the arm, and later in the innings another one went head-high past him and over Kelly’s head to the boundary.
“This was the ball about which the Beard Story originated. I can see W. G. now. He threw his head back, which caused his beard to stick out. Down the pitch went W. G., stroking his beard, to Harry Trott and said: “Here, what is all this?” And Trott said: “Steady, Jonah.” To which Jones made that famous remark: “Sorry, Doctor, she slipped.”
Jones played the majority of his first class cricket for South Australia, but did play three games in the early days of West Australian state cricket.