The Origins of Rugby League in Maher Cup Country

It took a decade, 1911-1921, for Rugby League to succeed Union in what became Maher Cup country.  It did not set up in competition to it – in most places it simply replaced it.  Below is a brief history.

The Sydney competition under ‘Northern Union’ rules, as it was often referred to then, with its 13 players and the playing of the ball, commenced in 1908. Spectators were excited by the open flow of the game and players preferred it. By 1911, with a rapidly growing fan base, a most successful tour by the British Lions, and defections from the Wallabies, League had become ascendant in the city. However country towns didn’t just follow fashion and fall into line. Continue reading

Minorities in Maher Cup Country

Maher Cup Country was and is a pretty culturally homogenous place, but there was always enough of a mix to make it interesting.

An hour before the first ever Maher Cup match Otto (Boydie) Beegling, the butcher’s son, and a highly respected young man from Tumut, warmed up the crowd when he took on a Adelong rival in a challenge footrace at the oval.  Eric Weissel, Bill Lesberg, Eric Kuhn, Charlie Schwartzel, Henry, Les and Tony Gelfius, Joe Steinke, Paul Butz, Len Koch and a 100 or more others with German names helped bring home the Cup to excited communities. Continue reading

Ron Crowe

Ron Crowe

Ron "Dookie" Crowe

Ron “Dookie” Crowe

There is probably no-one as revered in Maher Cup football as Ron Crowe.  In 1965 when he was aged just 32 the new Rugby League ground at West Wyalong was named in his honour.  When in 1962 he accepted an offer to play for Souths we all became Rabbitoh fans at Toppy school.   Ron and brother Les cut wood in the mallee country. My dad, a farmer, bought strainer posts from the Crowe brothers and used to point to them and say, they’re just like ‘Dookie’, a little bit bigger, and stronger and tougher than your regular posts.   Off the field Ron Crowe was a most gentle manContinue reading

Fred De Belin

Fred De Belin

 A young Fred De Belin in the RAAF

A young Fred De Belin in the RAAF

After the war increasingly enormous efforts were made to wrest the Holy Grail and awash local pubs, cafes and sundry businesses in Maher Cup money.

Legendary internationals with plenty of fire still in the bellies went west in the late 1940s – Joe Jorgenson to Junee, Herb Narvo to Cootamundra, Clem Kennedy to Grenfell, Nevyl Hand to Gundagai and George Watt to Boorowa. Barmedman scored probably the best man never to play for his country – Tom Kirk. The results were mixed. Narvo, Watt and Kennedy brought the Cup home – albeit all briefly. Jorgenson disappeared. Hand failed and was replaced – but phoenix-like became the inspirational leader of possibly the best side ever formed in country NSW. Fred De Belin, Kangaroo and partner with Harry Bath in the second row of Balmain’s 1946 premiership winning team, was intending to follow suit. Continue reading

2LF’s History of the Maher Cup

greshamThis old book from 1940, probably the first attempt to record in any detail the history of the Maher Cup, has been kindly shared with this site by a player of the time. The book promoted 2LF’s live broadcasts which had commenced in 1938.  Initially there were complaints from clubs that these broadcasts ‘hurt the gate’. However they did much to develop a deep interest in the game throughout the region at a time when people huddled around their radios for entertainment. Continue reading

Did Jack Watson Make The Most Maher Cup Appearances?

Cootamundra Junior Rugby League Team 1921

Cootamundra Junior Rugby League Team 1921 with Jack Watson and Eric Weissel

With some of the Maher Cup team compositions not recorded by local newspapers it is very unlikely that we can ever be certain of how many matches some prolific players participated in.  However it is clear that the following men lined up for at least 50 games, some probably a few more:

Jack Kingston (at least 50 appearances from 1925-1932).  This renowned international lock forward who toured with the Kangaroos to Britain in 1929, was a Cootamundra lad.  He also had a stint as captain-coach for arch-rivals Young.   Outside the Maher Cup world he also played for Leeton, Nowra and Western Suburbs. Continue reading

Complete List of Players

I have created a list of more than 3,300 people who have played for the Maher Cup.   I believe it includes more than 99% of players 1920-1971.  Often names are miss-spelled in newspaper reports. Frequently surnames only are printed.  Two newspapers covering the same match can produce differing player lists.  Match programs give the selected team, not the team that took to the field – so checking, expansion and correction of the data will be ongoing. Continue reading

The Real Old Boys of the Maher Cup

No matter how tough and physically damaging Maher Cup matches were there were many warriors who just kept on battling on, long after their ears had turned to cauliflowers.  A handful played for more than 20 seasons.

Below are a very select group of stoic stalwarts – men with a minimum of 18 seasons between their first and last Maher Cup matches. Continue reading

Gibsonvale 1946: Phil’s Truck & the Trip to Tumut

Gibsonvale was perhaps the Maher Cup’s most unlikely contender.  These days, on Google Earth only ribbons of white mine scars remain.  Gone are the hessian and corrugated iron huts built by battlers and fortune-hunters along the stockroute. Gone is the post office, the store, the school and the unfenced football field. Stoneham’s billiards hall and the Kikoira Pub remain, abandoned. Continue reading

Peter Castrission Remembers “The Blooda Maher Cup”

Peter Castrission has contributed the following:

I am Vic Castrission’s nephew and I live in Canberra. I am 59 and a retired public servant so I still spend a lot of time in Gundagai. I would like to give you some information about the Niagara Cafe in Gundagai and my uncles and fathers involvement in Rugby League, Group Nine and the Maher Cup. Continue reading