Games That Changed the Game No.3
The Grenfell Greens had not achieved much in Maher Cup football. Until 1938 their challenges had been limited to just four – all lost, with just 13 points earned and 80 conceded.
However by the late thirties the best teams – Young, West Wyalong, Temora and Cowra. were from the northern part of Maher Cup country. Grenfell was keen to get into action against its traditional rivals. Not having enough local talent they decided to go and buy a team.
They started by advertising for two players in May 1938, contracting Mick Crowe and Charlie “Chikka” Rice from St.George. On Wednesday 13 July a confident Grenfell contingent went over to Young for their fifth ever Maher Cup challenge. They brought many citizens – so many that the gate of £209 was the biggest of the decade. They lost – just, by 16-11 in a game described as magnificent football.
Young had an imported captain coach in Bill Kinnane, but prided itself in its local, unpaid, players. They went on to win 14 Maher Cup matches in 1938, including another close win over Grenfell on the 7th of September. In that game Mick Crowe, their best player, delivered a punch to Young’s Abe Hall, causing him to “lose interest in proceedings”. Crowe was promptly sent off, before half-time. Young won 7-4 with the visitors reflecting on “only if….”. Two close games. “What if we just import some more players? – we will surely be champions!” So they opened the purse-strings.
In 1939 the Grenfell club was underwritten by sixteen local guarantors. A new player-coach was bought, Oliver Duckworth from Balmain; plus Sid. Elliott from Canterbury-Bankstown; Brassil, Gibson and Bevan from Yass; Stonham and Stanford from Temora; Tiny Carmody from Boorowa, Freebody from Goulburn and even two Young players, Pearson and classy hooker ‘Yank’ Smith. Grenfell’s 1939 players’ weekly wages bill rose to £32, Young’s was £3.
On Wednesday 10th May 1939 Grenfell went to Young with a team composed mainly of imports. Mick Crowe broke his collarbone and they lost again 7-2.
Young were having another mighty year. Bill Kinnane had moved to Harden, and the coaching of the talented locals was taken over by Jim Rutherford of St George. Although Young did briefly lose the Maher Cup, to West Wyalong, by the time Grenfell’s next turn came around on Wednesday 2nd August it was being proudly displayed again in a Boorowa Street window.
However, on that day the heavens opened and the “lower portion” of the Young ground was found to be under water. Expecting a £200 gate, both sides were happy to postpone the match for a week. As Europe prepared itself for war, Grenfell, now known as the foreign legion or the alien army, prepared for their fourth and final attempt to wrest the Cup from Young. They lost 13-9. The imports all packed up and promptly left town.
This match reinforced the prevailing wisdom, already present in most Maher Cup towns, that imports should only to be used judiciously in order to lead and foster local talent. Mass importations were costly and prone to lead to failure. Back in 1931 imports were already seen as leading to expensive, suicidal, cut throat competition. This time Grenfell went beyond their limits and crashed. The town had trouble fielding any serious football team for 1940. They didn’t challenge again for the Maher Cup until 1947, finally winning it, some 23 years after their first challenge, in 1950. This time, again led by imports, but with many local players.
But there was another factor in this game that changed the way the Maher Cup was played. The collusion between these two clubs in postponing a match in order to place profits before the game was widely condemned. Prior to the start of the next season it was decided that Maher Cup “matches must be played irrespective of the condition of the field”. And they were.
In 1952 Young lost at flooded Gundagai while its spectators were being rescued from the rising waters of the mighty Murrumbidgee River. In 1965 Grenfell went to a freezing Tumut to be trounced 15-0 upon a field of thick pure white snow.
And Grenfell never did beat Young in the Maher Cup.