The Broads: West Wyalong’s Hard Corps

West Wyalong was a hard place. In this driest part of Maher Cup country the mallee is more scrub than forest.  When disturbed the fine sandy red soil generates dust that just hangs. Making a living was hard, the football fields were hard, the man were expected to be hard.   The hardest of them often had the surname Broad. Three generations over five decades, thirteen family members, more if you include the Broad girls’ sons and the in-laws, were at the heart of the town’s Maher Cup passion.

The Broads first came to notice outside the Bland Shire when four of five brothers: George, Fred, Alf and John made up most of the forward pack in the town’s 1925 Maher Cup winning team.

Source: Ancestry.com

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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

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

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

Greeks In Our Lives

In Maher Cup country Greek families, mostly from the small island of Kythera, contributed significantly to community life and to football.  Pictured below is Vic Castrission owner of the iconic Niagara Cafe at Gundagai, and as the president of the Gundagai Rugby League Club, the holder of the Maher Cup.

Vic Castrissian holding the Maher Cup, with local member Billy Sheahan. Source: Photo. on wall of the Niagara Cafe

Vic Castrission holding the Maher Cup, with local member Billy Sheahan. Source: Photo. on the wall of the Niagara Cafe

George Minos of West Wyalong.

George Minos of West Wyalong. Source: Wyalong & District Family History Group. Tales from the Grave.

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Temora v West Wyalong ad infinitum 1933

Games That Changed The Game No.4

People often tell me that things were simpler in the old days.  Less red tape.  We just got on with it lad.   Hmmm but not aways.  In Maher Cup Country, when footballing matters mattered things could get quite bogged down. People could be a little pernickety.

In deep Depression days, in 1932, Temora paid for a new captain coach – twenty-five year old Harry Thompson.  He was a useful half-back from Brisbane, a Queensland representative.   He became the other half to Eric Weissel, who now at 29, and at the very top of his game, was the chief draw-card in Group 9. 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