A 1941 Maher Cup Reunion in North Africa

The following article is from the Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser Tuesday 1 July 1941, available at  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130455370?

Italian Prisoner Saw Captor Play Football at Griffith
Mutual Surprise in Battlefield Meeting – Roped in by ‘Musso’ While Holidaying

From seeing a Riverina man, adorned in the colours of another town’s football team, tearing down the wing of the mock battlefield of the Griffith football ground, it was a far, far cry indeed for an Italian soldier — now a British prisoner of war — to perceive the footballer dressed in the stern habiliments of war, among the Australians who had shattered his regiment and captured him and many others in an African desert. Yet such was the lot of an Italian who at one time lived at Griffith. The amazing incident is recorded in a letter from a Temora Rugby League player, Theo. Witts, now Driver Witts, A.I.F.


During the desert fighting in which Driver Witts took part there was a lull in the operations, and, during ‘mopping-up’ Australians brought in a number of prisoners.

One of the desert-begrimed Italians shouted to Driver Witts in good English. He approached the prisoner and was exceedingly surprised to learn that the Italian knew him.

The man had worked for a considerable time in a cafe at Griffith, and was apparently a football-follower, for he told Driver Witts that he had seen him playing in his usual position on the wing in Temora’s Maher Cup team on occasions when inter-town games had been played at Griffith.


The Italian said he had saved enough money to go home to Italy from Griffith, intending to stay only for short holiday and return to Griffith. While he was still in Italy, Mussolini had declared war, and he was forced to take up arms, going into battle, in the fullness of time, against the Australians. ‘He told me that both Hitler and   ‘Musso’ had big heads, and he hoped that they would soon have them knocked together,’ Driver Witts wrote in a letter to his sister, Mrs. W. H.Butler, of Berry, New South Wales. -Leeton “Irrigator”

Theodore William Witts was a crack winger/centre with the crack Temora team of the 1930s.  He played alongside Eric Weissel. Born in West Wyalong in 1907, Theo became a carpenter.  His father William Miles was appointed as postmaster at Temora in 1930, and Theo lived there from 1930-1936.   The family then moved to Manly where he lived the rest of his life.  He passed away in 1983.

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