The objective of this blog is to improve understanding of the importance of the Maher Cup and rugby league football generally to the life and history of twelve towns of the NSW south west slopes and northern Riverina – Tumut, Gundagai, Cootamundra, Harden-Murrumburrah, Young, Junee, Temora, Barmedman, West Wyalong, Cowra, Grenfell and Boorowa. All had victorious Maher Cup teams. The period of interest is from the end of the Great War to the 1960s.
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The Maher Cup was simply different to other rugby league competitions. It permeated deep into the psyche of the citizens of these towns. The events around it were dramatic, the passions deep – it was about much more than football. For an introduction to the Maher Cup see the Wikipedia article that I wrote.
Some good books have been written about the Maher Cup:
- Madigan, John (1995). The Maher Cup and Tumut;
- McCarthy, Paul J (1996). Maher Cup: the Harden-Murrumburrah story;
- Sheehan, Maurice V. . The Maher Cup story: a history of the incidents and personalities associated with the most famous trophy in Country rugby league football. This book is reproduced and updated in:
- Hughes, Brian (2010). The Famous Maher Cup: the Final Years.
Sheehan’s book (with Brian Hughes’ additions) is the most comprehensive work. Sheehan was a correspondent for the Temora Independent and principal of Barmedman Public School. He does give extra weight to those towns. Also as he died before publication the work is incomplete.
The first attempt at a published history, other than brief summaries in local newspapers, seems to have been 2LF’s History of the Maher Cup published at the start of the 1940 season. It is out of copyright and reproduced here.
There is also a chapter titled ‘The Maher Cup: rabbits, floods, fights and fire’, in Ellicott, John (2014). Uncommon Heroes: The hard men and raw talent that built Rugby League. In other chapters he provides detailed information on players Eric Weissel and Tom Kirk.
- Campbell, Peter (2011). From the Goldfields to the Mallee Men: a history of the West Wyalong Rugby League Football Club, one hundred years – 1911-2010.
- Ryan, Bede F & Grosvenor, Ron (2011). The history of Rugby League in Burrowa/Boorowa.
Another relevant work is Weeks, Jack (2009). The breakaway of the Murrumbidgee Rugby League : the forerunner and the aftermath 1960 – 1972.
No comprehensive history that places and explains this phenomenon within the social life of the area has been written. I am hopeful that this blog may be a starting point, and that you will share your thoughts and memories for publication. Together we can throw new light on the history of our places.
About The Project Co-ordinator
While I live in Sydney, I was born at West Wyalong, in 1952. We farmed “Mallee Vale” outside Wyalong (‘Toppy’), later moving to Caragabal. My father, originally from Tallimba, retired to Young where many relations have lived. He died in June 2014. Memories include late nights after long car trips back from far away towns like Gundagai and Tumut; my first traffic jam when returning to Wyalong from a match at Barmedman – probably in 1961; listening to the warm-toned calls of our radio friend John O’Reilly on 2LF; and playing with little talent as a teenager for Grenfell, where I attended high school. I particularly remembered playing at Young in a match in which I first both observed the falling of snow and questioned why anyone would play this game.
In late 2013 the hero from my school days Ron Crowe passed away and the memories of the era seemed to be fading. I decided to attempt to revive the memory.
|I am a little silver cup,
As plain as plain can be;
Although of little value,
There are thousands care for me.
They argue and they quarrel,
For me they strive to hold,
I’ve brought cash, in by the hundreds,
That is what I’m told.
When my glamorous days are over
And which I fear is nigh,
Please place me on a pedestal
Like a dog at Gundagai.
Just listen to my suggestion
Please place me here to rest
In the town where they love me,
By the team that played the best.
Yes, place me on a monument
For generations all to see
What your ancestors fought for madly
Just a little cup like me.
– by Mudlark.