DOB: 10 June 1946
Number: 18 1971-1975
Melbourne captured the prized signature of the five time premiership player from South Australia in March 1971, but were forced to fight for his clearance from Sturt for the first half of the season. He had initially denied he wanted to move states, before deciding to join the Dees. Secretary Jim Cardwell made three trips to Adelaide to negotiate for his release, but Stuart were adamant that they would only let their 128 game champion go if the Demons paid a $15,000 transfer fee.
In his six seasons at Sturt the former decathalete missed just five games through injury, but was forced to sit out the first 11 rounds of 1971 before he could make his VFL debut. Sturt finally relented, and on the day of Tilbrook's debut Cardwell denied that he had paid $18,000 to Sturt and $5000 a year over four years to Tilbrook, but several prominent Melbourne supporters including Billy Snedden and editor of The Age Graham Perkin were said to have chipped in.
He played in a win on debut but was involved in just one more victory all year as his new side snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by dropping out of the top four after Round 17 after having been inside since the first day of the season.
Tilbrook failed to impress in Melbourne's rocky end to the year, and after disappointing 1972 practice match form he started the season in the Reserves. A shoulder injury suffered in the practice matches kept him out for a month, and he didn't play a senior game until Round 10.
Known as "Diamond Jim" due to the expense the Demons had gone to in order to sign him, Tilbrook never lived up to the status of his large price tag, and after a failed attempt at playing Gridiron in the United States at the end of 1974 he played just two more matches before retiring.
Tilbrook then joined Old Melburnians and played seniors through 1980. He coached the MFC scholarship squad in 1977 but by 1978 his relationship with the club had crumbled when he issued a Supreme Court writ against The Herald newspaper claiming damages for libel over an article head Demons, what went wrong? - co-respondent in the writ was former MFC secretary Jim Cardwell who was quoted in the report.
"Demons want him" - The Age 03/03/1971
"Tilbrook signs but.." - The Age 04/03/1971
Inside Football - May 1971
"Demons in new bid for Tilbrook" - The Age 02/06/1971
"Demons step up Tilbrook bid" - The Age 15/06/1971
"Cardwell denies Tilbrook fee" The Age 19/06/1971
"Tilbrook to have shoulder X-rayed" - The Age 05/04/1972
"Former Demon sues" - The Age 09/08/1978
"New footy heroes are schoolboys" - The Age 16/11/1989