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Vale Jim Paterson

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys join the rugby league community in mourning the passing of former rugby league stalwart Jimmy Paterson. 

“Pato”, as he was affectionately known, had a long and distinguished rugby league career as a player, coach and later selector, and in many ways was a trailblazer for the code in North Queensland.

Jim Paterson became a household name in Queensland during the 1950s and 60s, representing both Queensland and Australia from his beloved North Queensland.

A product of the Townsville Souths club, and originally a five-eighth but later moving to the forwards, Jim played in Townsville and made the North Queensland trials in 1954, before moving to Toowoomba for two season in 1955 at the invitation of legendary coach Duncan Thompson.

Playing for the Toowoomba Valleys club he made the Toowoomba Bulimba Cup squad before going home to North Queensland for the 1957 season.

Those two seasons in Toowoomba were to be the only ones he played club football outside of North Queensland.  

His return north was met with immediate success, with a place in the victorious 1957 Townsville Foley Shield side, followed by both North Queensland and Queensland selection in 1958.

The following year, Jim was a member of the victorious North Queensland side that defeated the Combined Brisbane side to claim the first-ever ‘state league championship'.

This success was reflected in the growing stature of the game in the state's north and also in the number of North Queensland based players, including Jim, who wore maroon that year.

That 1959 Queensland side, coached by the great Clive Churchill, was to be the last one to win a full series over NSW before the first Origin series of 1982, where Qld defeated NSW 3-1.

This resounding series win catapulted several Queensland players into the Australian side, with North Queensland’s Jim Paterson one of them.  

Other notable Queensland players to debut for Australia in 1959 were Noel Kelly, Barry Muir, Elton Rasmussen, Dud Beattie and Gary Parcell.

At the end of the 1959 season, Jim was selected in the 28-strong 1959 Australian Kangaroos touring squad, just one of 7 Queensland-based players to make the squad and the only one based in North Queensland.

This selection made him just the third North Queensland player to make a Kangaroos tour to the UK, following Mick Glasheen in 1933 and Henry "Frosty" Benton in 1948.

After returning from the Kangaroos tour he joined the Innisfail Rugby League for three seasons and continued to represent both Queensland and Australia, playing two tests against France in 1960 and touring New Zealand with the Australian 1961 side as an Innisfail-based player.

He was one of five Queensland forwards to play for Australia in 1960, a record for that time.

For the 1963 season he moved to Ingham, leading the Herbert River Foley Shield side before returning to Townsville to play out his career with Centrals.

He continued to wear the maroon of Queensland until 1966.

One of the major milestones that came later in his playing career was leading the North Queensland representative side to a momentous win over Great Britain in 1966.

The design of the jersey worn by the North Queensland side on that historic day has been used by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys to honour former NQ sides on several occasions.

Jim retired as a player after the 1968 season but continued his involvement in the game as a selector for Townsville, Queensland Country, Queensland and Australia.

He played in an era when players held down full time jobs, and he remained very humble about his achievements both on and off the field.

Jim simply loved the game and resisted several attempts to lure him to Brisbane or Sydney clubs during his career.

His three years in the Australian jersey made him the most-capped North Queensland based forward before the NRL era and in 2008 he was selected in the “Queensland 100 Greats”, as well as the North Queensland Team of the Century.

Jim Paterson (second from left) with fellow former NQ players Brian Fitzsimons (left), Ray Miguel (second from right) and Gary Wellington (right) in the Cowboys tunnel at 1300SMILES Stadium during the Centenary of League celebrations in 2008
Jim Paterson (second from left) with fellow former NQ players Brian Fitzsimons (left), Ray Miguel (second from right) and Gary Wellington (right) in the Cowboys tunnel at 1300SMILES Stadium during the Centenary of League celebrations in 2008


Position: Second row/lock forward

Clubs: South Townsville 1954, 1957-8; Toowoomba Valleys 1955-56; Innisfail 1960-62; Herbert River 1963; Townsville Centrals 1964-66

Representative matches:

  • Queensland 24 matches, 1958-1966
  • Australia 8 test matches (1959-61); 1959 (3) v NZ; 1960 (2) v France; 1961 (2) v NZ
  • Toured UK/France 1959, New Zealand 1961.
  • Qld Country Captain, 1963-65

Top image: Queensland players in the 1960 Australian side, including a record five Queensland forwards (back row, L-R): Elton Rasmussen, Jim Paterson; front row (L-R): Halfback Barry Muir, Dud Beattie, Noel Kelly and Gary Parcell.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.