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

John O’Reilly

oreilly1This website/blog owes its existence to John O’Reilly.  In the 1950s he made our small town football the dramatic heart of our lives. Women were seduced by his mellifluous tones, children were drawn in by his rich word pictures.  No one has done it better.

My mother hated the drinking and gambling that she associated with many of the men of rugby league – but she loved listening to the calls of John O’Reilly on 2LF.  On Saturday afternoons we would gather around  the radio.

Ray Warren has written:

I’d grown up listening to John O’Reilly calling the Maher Cup. I still think he was the best footy caller I’ve ever heard on radio. He had a silky-smooth voice, and he was incredibly accurate. …… I wanted to follow John to the big smoke. I just hoped I’d one day be as good as he was.

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Herbert Howard & The Maher Cup Song

The Maher Cup inspired many stories, poems and at least one published song, The Maher Cup : March Song, written by W.H. Howard of Tumut and Junee many years ago.

Choir of the Southern Cross, Young.

Choir of the Southern Cross, Young.

The song has recently been recorded by the Choir of the Southern Cross on 10 November 2013 at the Young Town Hall. Listen to it.

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Heroes On The Fringes of the Maher Cup : Brungle’s 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

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

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

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