It is with some sadness that we learnt last week of the passing of one of the great players of yesterday, especially in the north, John Eaton.
John was a powerhouse front rower and a great leader of men who made it all the way to Queensland representation. He was a tough front rower from the days when scrums were real contests and he was not only tough, and skillful, but a real tactician as he showed in the years after he retired as player, when he turned to coaching.
John began his senior football career with Milla Milla in 1954. He then moved to Toowoomba to link up with the All Whites club in 1955 and stayed three years in the Garden City, where he came under the coaching of the master coach Duncan Thompson.
During this time he represented Toowoomba in the Bulimba Cup and then in 1957 was selected for Qld and played in all four games of that years series against NSW. His front row partner for Qld was Australian captain Brian Davies.
It was a difficult time for Qld though, with the side suffering key injuries during the series and in some games finishing a man short. In 1958 John returned north, back to Milla Milla and was all set to maintain has place in the Qld side when he broke his leg in a state trial match.
To this day it is believed that he was a very good chance of making the Australian side if not for this injury. He continued to coach Milla Milla for the rest of the 1958 season while recovering from the broken leg and then joined the Herbert River Rugby league for the 1959-60 seasons.
While in the Herbert he led NQ against France in 1960. He rejoined Milla Milla in 1961 and he not only led the district Foley Shield side, Eachem to a Foley Shield premiership, but also captained NQ again.
A young Tully player by the name of Angelo Crema made his North Qld debut in 1961, while John was captain. Angelo, who later played for Australia in 1966, described John in glowing terms as a ”superb captain and a wonderful bloke”.
A stint in Cairns in 1963 was followed by a final run with his home town before retiring as a player.
As a coach, he had successful stints coaching in club football in the North and was above all a great community and family man. Another facet of John’s life was that he was brother of former Qld politician Bill Eaton, who held the seat of Mouriylan for many years and was the Minister for Land management under the Goss Government between 1989-92.