Phil Regan of Glebe and Cootamundra

Phil Regan (top left) lead the undefeated Maher Cup team in 1923. Others in shot are Ray Sheedy, Eric Weissel and Curtis 'Dick' Pellow. Source: Wal Galvin collection

Phil Regan (top left) led the undefeated Cootamundra Maher Cup team in 1923. Others in shot are Ray Sheedy, Eric Weissel and Curtis ‘Dick’ Pellow. Source: Wal Galvin collection

He may or may not have been the first paid player-coach to leave  a top city club and take a country team to a higher level, but he was the best. Within weeks of taking up the job in July 1922 he had transformed a tired Cootamundra team into champions.

For the next five years he caught the train back to Coota for the football season, took board at a hotel and inspired and developed the local lads. Phil Regan led the team in 54 Maher Cup matches, prevailing in all but seven. Continue reading

The Poetry of Rugby League

In Maher Cup days many punters penned poetry which ended up published in the local paper.  A sampling of these can be found here.

The following (probably unpublished) verse from 1935 is not about the Maher Cup, but is posted as it reveals much about the casual attitude to the violence of football at the time, and the camaraderie that necessitated that everyone be assigned a nickname. Continue reading

The 2016 Maher Cup Reunion 13 February

Well it’s all done and dusted and a good time was had by one and all at the Cootamundra Country Club.   At least 180 folk came to swap yarns, plus many of the visiting Temora bowlers joined in.  Below are some links to local media reports.

The Harden-Murrumburrah Twin Town Times has a video in its report featuring the chief organiser Tom Spain.

Coota men with the Cup

Coota men with the Cup – Source: Cootamundra Herald

Continue reading

The Cup Is Back In Coota

At Wyalong and Tumut, Wagga and Cowra, and all the places in-between, people are preparing for the Maher Cup Reunion at the Country Club on Saturday 13 February. It look as though more than 120 folks may be coming. This impressive display at the Camera Arts Centre at 266 Parker Street has been prepared by Susan Chambers and Tisha McTavish.

Maher Cup display in the Camera Art Centre

Maher Cup display in the Camera Art Centre

There were 728 Maher Cup matches, approximately 3,000 players, total attendances would easily have topped a million people, and the memories are countless.

At Cootamundra, Fisher Park last hosted the ‘Holy Grail’ more than 45 years ago on 6th June 1970 with this team: Colin Powell, David Cook, Ron Shergold, John Kennedy, R. Miller, Peter Lawson, Barry Black, Tony Hardwick, Bill Miller, D. Luck, Bob Glanville, Brian Wilson, and Ray Gaffey.

Thanks Tisha McTavish for the photo

Thanks Tisha McTavish for the photos

Cootamundra’s final challenge for the Cup was at Alfred Oval, Young on 29th May 1971 with, according to Wal Galvin’s annotated program, the following players: Peter Lawson, L. Gehrig, Keith Thompson, Gary Luck, Ron Shergold, Jim Piffero, Col Powell, Bill Miller, Bob Sheedy, Mick O’Toole, Brian Wedgwood, Brian Wilson and Ray Gaffey.

Remember that the reunion is for anyone interested in preserving and sharing in memories of life and football in the golden age of our small towns and villages.  Places that were both united and divided by the determination to deliver The Old Tin Pot home by whatever means.

Maybe you, or your parents, or grandparents will find the same joy of being photographed with The Cup on 13 February as these folks below did way back: Continue reading

Group 9 in the 1920s.

This is the first instalment of a brief history of Group 9 Rugby League.

Rugby League emerged in the Riverina in 1911, at West Wyalong. By 1921 it had replaced Union throughout the southwest. The NSW Rugby League, recognising the need to join up clubs and to organise this rapidly expanding sport, proposed prior to the 1922 season to divide the rural parts of the state into twelve groups. Group 9 was to include the teams Harden, Wagga, Cootamundra, Gundagai, Tumut, Temora, Barmedman, Wyalong, West Wyalong, Mildil, Ariah Park and Ardlethan. Continue reading

A Pictorial History of Cootamundra Rugby League to 1971

The following has been prepared with thanks to Susan Chambers and the wonderful resources that her father Wal Galvin diligently and painstakingly collected.

A football club was first formed at Cootamundra in 1882. The committee then debated what rules to adopt. Although they decided on the ‘Victorian game’ rather than Rugby the team did play at least one game of Rugby that year. In 1885 the ‘Our Boys‘ team provided the code with some permanence. By the 1895 Rugby was well established and a second team, the Pirates, enabled a home town derby.

Cootamundra Rugby Team 1914

Cootamundra Rugby Team 1914

Continue reading

A Brief History of the Maher Cup Clubs in Graphs

Graphically representing the number of matches played by each club helps illustrate the highs and lows of their footballing journeys over the 52 years of the Maher Cup history, and provides the basis of a brief club history.  Failure to capture the Cup meant twiddling thumbs and fretting  on the outcome of the next draw.Cootamundra graph

Cootamundra (224 matches). Playing 62 games more than any other team, Coota started with a bang in 1922 winning in its first game under Phil Regan – the first paid-player coach in the bush. They didn’t let up. Regan’s 1920s blue and whites, featuring players such as Eric Weissel, Jack Kingston, Bill Lesberg and Gordon Hinton utterly dominated their opponents. With a little help they even took on England. During the Depression years, after Regan departed, it all fell apart for a while.  1935 saw the purchase of five paid players, an embarrassing loss to Tumut, and the imports instantly sacked.  Coota rose to the top again in 1939 with a team composed mainly of local ex-De La Salle boys.  After the war Herb Narvo (1947) and Johnny Graves (1954) led teams of extraordinary quality. Reverting to mainly local players the town continued to be consistently competitive into the 1960s. Continue reading

Wal Galvin

Wal Galvin Source: image posted on Cootamundra Remembers by Bernice Bristow

Wal Galvin Source: image posted on Cootamundra Remembers by Bernice Bristow

Some men are remembered fondly in Maher Cup Country because they were fine and fair players. Some are remembered because they excelled at administration. Others are etched in our memory for their indefatigable team loyalty. A few are remembered for being painstaking recorders of history – for their commitment to keeping the memories alive.

Wal Galvin is remembered for all of the above.

Born in 1927 he was the youngest son of Owen Galvin, a sharefarmer of Yeo Yeo Road near Stockinbingal.

A teenager during the war years there was little football to be played. However in 1946 Wal played for the Stock team against local clubs like Wallendbeen and the Old Boys and Railway teams from Cootamundra. Continue reading

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