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

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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

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

Population Change in Maher Cup Country

In 1954 the Boorowa News provided the following estimates of town and district populations of the twelve “Group Nine towns”.

Cowra: town 7,000; district 15,000
Tumut: 3,500 and 13,000 (including Adelong and Batlow)
Young: 4,500 and 12,000
Cootamundra: 6,000 and 10,000 Continue reading

Cootamundra v Tumut 6 June 1923

Games That Changed The Game No. 1

This is the first in a series.

“And the rain it gently, pattered down! And the lovely green flats of the ‘Bidgiee silhoutted, as it were, against the sky line as the special train from Tumut, with footballers and supporters aboard steamed over the railway bridge yesterday afternoon. The footballers’ quest was the Maher Cup — they were going to capture it for Tumut— so they said. And their supporters were going to stir them on to deeds of derring do”.

(The Gundagai Independent, 7 June 1923).

Background

Let us step back from the poetry. It was a Wednesday afternoon – the 16th challenge for the Maher Cup was set to be played at Fisher Park Cootamundra. It was less than three years since Ted Maher put the Cup into play. Things were starting to get very serious.  The rules were read scrupulously, and Rule 9 was a problem. Continue reading