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|Full name||John Charles Bliss|
30 August 1922|
|Died||9 September 1974
Warriewood, New South Wales
|1947–51||New South Wales||6||9||0||0||27|
|Source: Rugby League Project|
John Charles Bliss (born 30 August 1922, died 9 August 1974) was an Australian rugby league player who played for the Balmain Tigers, North Sydney Bears and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the NSWRL between 1942 and 1951.
Rugby League career
Born in Queensland but raised on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Johnny Bliss, nicknamed Blistering for his outstanding speed, was a scrawny Manly district junior who started out as a Hooker with the North Narabeen Surf Club. He was shifted to the Wing as 16-year-old after his coach Tom Ballard saw him packing into a scrum and then showing incredible pace in general play. Ballard told him "You're too fast for a hooker boy - you're now on the wing".
As the Manly club wouldn't have a first grade team until 1947, he was graded with Balmain in 1939. He went to North Sydney in 1941 but the Tigers claimed him on residence grounds for the 1942 and 1943 seasons (at the time a player was bound to play for the club in whose city zone he lived and a transfer involved proving residence for 12 months prior). In 1947 he moved to Manly and played on the wing in their first ever premiership match against Western Suburbs at Brookvale Oval, scoring a try in the teams hard fought 13-15 loss to Wests.
Bliss topped the try scoring for the North Sydney Bears in 1944 scoring seven tries, including a club record 5 tries in the 51-10 win over Easts in Round 9 at North Sydney Oval, and again topped the list in 1945 scoring nine tries. He would also top Manly's try scoring list in 1947 and 1950, scoring 10 tries in each season. In total Johnny Bliss played 121 games and scored 78 tries during his NSWRL career.
Johnny Bliss's general play, speed and try scoring ability was first recognised in 1945 when he was chosen for City firsts in the annual City vs Country match. He would go on to play four games for City (1945, 1947, 1948 and 1951), scoring three tries. In 1947 he played the first of six games for New South Wales, scoring a total of nine tries between 1947 and his last game in 1951. He was selected to represent Sydney against France during their 1951 tour of Australasia in a match that ended in a 19-all draw. He is listed on the Australian Players Register as Kangaroo No. 281.
Also in 1951, Johnny Bliss was selected on the wing for Australia for the first Test against the Puig Aubert led France at the Sydney Cricket Ground. France ran out easy 26-15 winners in front of 60,160 fans. Following a poor game in which he, along with several team mates were criticized for 'timid tackling' (even though he twice ran down French players saving what looked to be certain tries), Bliss was one of six players dropped for the second test held in Brisbane. This was to be the only international match Bliss was selected for in his career.
Unfortunately for Bliss, his form dropped off after his one off test appearance and he was dropped from first grade before the semi-finals. He returned to the side for the Final but missed selection in Manly's first ever grand final appearance against South Sydney that year through injury, the Sea Eagles going down 42-14 to the Rabbitohs at the Sydney Sports Ground. After his retirement, Bliss was the speed guru to several Manly players, including Bob Fulton, Graham Eadie, Russell Gartner and fellow beach sprint champion Nick Yakich.
Johnny Bliss wasn't just a rugby league player though. He was also a highly successful beach sprint champion. He won an amazing 12 Australian championships in a row from 1939 to 1952. A record that may never be equaled or broken and he even attempted a comeback at the age of 38 to win the 1960 NSW title.
Bliss was an exceptionally fast runner. During the 1947 season, decked out in full football gear including heavy leather football boots and carrying a football, Bliss clocked an amazing 11.1 seconds over 110 yards and also recorded 9.9 seconds over 100 yards. Compare this time with that run by American Harrison Dillard who won the 100 m gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics in 10.3 seconds and it shows just how fast Bliss really was.
Personal Life and Death
Johnny Bliss, who was known as a practical joker and someone who loved life, died from the effects of a brain tumor on 9 August 1974, at the age of 52.
- Bliss Family History Society: Australian Database
- ARL Annual Report 2005, page 53