Heroes On The Fringes of the Maher Cup : Brungle’s Digger Davis & Joe Nettup

Digger Davis & Joe Nettup

Like most men his age Tom Davis enlisted for the Great War.  In 1917 he fought on the Western Front, suffered from trench fever, influenza, scabies and finally was gassed just two months before the armistice.  He returned home in 1919 to be classified as “medically unfit” and to be now known in his community as “Digger” Davis. Nothing unusual there.

But Tom Davis was a non-citizen.  He was from the “mish”. He was in the language of the day, a darkie, an Abo.

Davis had enlisted at Cowra in January 1916 with a group of men from the Erambie reserve. Most of these eager recruits were discharged just a few months later as not being suitable due to their race.  Undeterred Tom Davis went over to Goulburn in October and  enlisted again.  The carnage in the trenches of the Western Front had by that time changed attitudes – anyone would do, and the army promptly shipped him off to France.

Tom Davis is fourthrow from the back, fifth from the right

Tom Davis is fourth row from the back, fifth from the right

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Stan Gibbs’ Memories of the Maher Cup Cootamundra 1938-1946

My memories of the Maher Cup are through the eyes of a young boy and teenager.

Before the War, my father took me on a pushbike to Fisher Oval where I saw my first match. When I was older, Dad and I spent the day in Young having travelled there by a special train. Young must have won that day, as I can vaguely remember the elation of Bill Kearney, the coach of the Young team. Continue reading

Graham English Remembers Young & the Maher Cup in the 1950s.

I was born at Young in 1944 and lived there until 1960. In those days we knew little of Sydney football. Everything was Group 9 or Maher Cup. Radio 2LF at Young had John O’Reilly broadcasting the Maher Cup games. O’Reilly was a great football broadcaster. He could make the dullest game sound exciting. I’ve heard they are going to put Ray Warren and Frank Hyde into some hall of fame of rugby league commentators but O’Reilly should be there too. He later came to Sydney and described the league on the ABC.

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Bill Lesberg

Bill Lesberg

Although little remembered outside of Maher Cup memories, many of those who witnessed Bill Lesberg’s work on the paddocks of the south-west slopes and the Riverina in the 1920s considered him the greatest goal-kicker to ever play Rugby League in country New South Wales.

Lesberg played at fullback for Cootamundra.   There was another brilliant goal-kicker in that side, one Eric Weissel.   However “Berg” almost always got the nod.  His speciality was the drop goal, worth two points, and the half-way line was certainly not too far.  The left foot was preferred but either acceptable.   Converting from the touch line was always likely.  Teams had to factor that any ball that went to Lesberg in their own half was likely to result in a  field goal. Continue reading

Eric Weissel’s Early Years

Eric Weissel

It must have been special to see this gifted athlete and footballing genius play in the days before the city folk and the nation noticed him.  Some say those were his best years – witnessed by lucky punters on local paddocks – mostly at Cootamundra.

Cootamundra Cadets team of 1921 which included Eric Weissel; from left to right from back row: Sid Drinnan, T.Maher, C.Kelly, Tom Ryan, L.Deal, Glenn Evans (referee), T.McGuigan, Eric Weissel (aged 18), L.Ryan, J.Sissian, S.Whealy (secretary & treasurer), F.Smith (captain), J.Maffersoni (president), R.Cohen, P.Mills, S.O'Neill, K.Cohen (mascot), Sid Chambers, M.Rooney. Source: S.G. Chambers, Cootamundra.

Cootamundra Cadets team of 1921 which included Eric Weissel; from left to right from back row: Sid Drinnan, T.Maher, C.Kelly, Tom Ryan, L.Deal, Glenn Evans (referee), T.McGuigan, Eric Weissel (aged 18), L.Ryan, J.Sissian, S.Whealy (secretary & treasurer), F.Smith (captain), J.Maffersoni (president), R.Cohen, Perce Mills, S.O’Neill, K.Cohen (mascot), Sid Chambers, M.Rooney. Source: S.G. Chambers, Cootamundra.

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Those Magnificent Weissels

The Weissel Family

Eric Weissel, “Weissel the Wizard”, “Ec” to his friends, was a try-scoring, goal-kicking genius. In the Riverina of the 1920s and early 30s his performances helped develop the Maher Cup into a footballing phenomenon.

Playing for small town clubs all his life, his performances were not commonly witnessed by Sydney commentators and experts. Although his brilliance may never have been properly appreciated outside Maher Cup country, many local witnesses consider him to be possibly the best five-eighth the world will ever see.

He came from an extraordinary sporting  family and below is an attempt at recording some of their history. Continue reading

Young v Grenfell 9 August 1939

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. Continue reading

Nevyl Hand

Nevyl Hand

Cootamundra Herald 22 March 1949 reported that:

The Gundagai Rugby League has secured the services of Kangaroo forward, Neville  [should read Nevyl] Hand, as coach for the 1949 season. Hand, who is 26 years of age, is 6ft. 1 in, and weighs over 15 stone. He was one of the outstanding forwards of the Kangaroos, which last month returned home, from the tour of England and France. It is expected that Hand will arrive in Gundagai at the weekend.

Nevyl Hand with the Maher Cup

Gundagai 1951. Nevyl Hand with the Maher Cup. Back Row L-R: Jack Lindley, Norm Bounader, Owie Hourn, Len Koch, Noel Goodsall, Harry Gibbs, George ‘Foo’ Ballard, Ron Bower, Des Field, Jim Sullivan, Bill Edwards. Front Row L-R: Trevor Lawson, Kevin Warden, Nevyl Hand, John Ryan, Bill Gardiner, John Biscaya, Harold Etherington

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Cootamundra v Canowindra 29 August 1928

Games that Changed the Game No.2

Roddy Gilmore, farmer of Canowindra, was a pretty useful second rower. He worked a 600 acre soldier settler’s block, carved from the North Bangaroo Estate in 1924. It was said that he “cut off the legs of his working trousers to make his football shorts for his first game (Worboys, p22).

On Wednesday 29 August 1928 he played for the Maher Cup against the champions of the south, Cootamundra. Continue reading