The Biggest Maher Cup Matches

Which games attracted the biggest crowds? Let’s make a top ten list.

Unfortunately this is quite difficult. My memory of rolling up to a Maher Cup match was of a ticket seller at the gate with a bookmaker’s bag taking cash and dispensing tickets. There were no turnstiles to tally the mob.

Newspaper normally reported “the gate”, that is the total value of the tickets sold. Those that didn’t pay, like school children and in some cases ladies, were not included.  Journalists would often estimate the size of the actual crowd – but to the nearest 500 at best. Sometimes these estimates were wildly exaggerated. For  example the 19 August 1931 match at Young vs Temora and the 23 August 1952 game Gundagai vs Cootamundra were both reported to have attendances of 8000, where the gate income would indicate  4000 and 5000 respectively to be more accurate.1612July1922

Admission charges increased through the years – 6d in 1920 to 3/6 in 1952,  varied between grounds, and were often adjusted according to how much the punters were willing to pay for a particular attraction.  In 1925 Wyalong not only shocked Cootamundra by wresting the cup away, they also shocked the hundreds of Coota supporters who travelled the 81 miles to West Wyalong on 23 September to take it back,  by slapping on a one-off 2/- charge.  Cootamundra in 1928 doubled the price against a superb Canowindra side.

In the early years only men paid, or women were given at least a discount. School children were usually allowed free entry.  At Gundagai in 1922 (see above image) school children  got  in for free, but children over 14 were considered to have an income and were charged 6d. For those lucky enough to come by car there usually was some charge for parking around the oval.  The match takings, which included the sale of match programs, was technically different from the gate – but the distinction was usually lost in reports. The levying of entertainment tax contributed to the confusion.

So, given the daunting challenge presented by this multitude of variables, below is my first attempt to make a top ten list. Undoubtedly it will be refined over time.

(1) YOUNG Vs GUNDAGAI : 23 May 1953

Gate: £871 at 3/- , estimated 5,810 paying spectators.
Result: Young 8 Gundagai 29 : Gundagai – Tries: Butz, Hand, Bryant, Brogan, Towers ; Goals: Koch (7) : Young – Tries: Jeffrey, Bond ; Goal: Johnston

The Gundagai Tigers of the early 1950s were one of the greatest Maher Cup teams, winning 24 matches straight before a shock loss to Grenfell in the last game of 1952. This game was the first opportunity Gundagai had to recapture the Old Pot.

Teams (as per program):
Fullback: Jack Murray. Three-quarters: Jack Bond, Ian Johnston(c), Neville Brogan, Ron Murray. Five-eighth: P. ‘Buster’ Harvey, Half: John Scott. Forwards: Peter O’Connor, Allan James, Ray Green, Sid Hobson, Brian Jeffrey, George Robertson.
Fullback: Len Koch. Three-quarters: Paul Butz, Wally Towers, Ralph Bryant, Norm French. Five-eighth: Brian ‘Bill’ Longhurst. Half: John Ryan. Forwards: Bob Henery, Owen Hourn, Noel Goodsall, Nevyl Hand(c), Harry Gibbs, Terry Brogan.
Referee: M.Ibbotson. Linesmen: L. Boynton (Gundagai), F.McGuigan (Young).

Gundaga Times match report

Gundaga Times match report

(2) COOTAMUNDRA Vs TEMORA :  11 July 1953

Gate: £743/4/6 at 3/6; an estimated 4243 paying spectators.
Result: Cootamundra 16 Temora 16

(3) TEMORA Vs COOTAMUNDRA : 22 May 1954

Gate: £742/16/- at 3/6; an estimated 4240 paying spectators, and crowd of over 5000.  The Temora Independent of 24 May estimated the crowd at “nearly 10,000” with the gate just  £12 short of the above Young v Gundagai match (taking into consideration that the entertainment tax was abolished on 1 October 1953). The newspaper claimed almost 5,000 paying spectators and about 5,000 non-paying children.
Result: Temora 4 Cootamundra 16

(4) YOUNG Vs COOTAMUNDRA : 29 June 1927

Gate: reported as £220 ; crowd estimated at between and 4000 and 5000
Result: Young 10 Cootamundra 17


Sydney Mail 10 July 1927

(5) JUNEE Vs COOTAMUNDRA : 15 August 1928

Gate: £211 at 1/-; an estimated 4220 paying spectators.  But gate also given as £179 by the Cootamundra Herald.
Result: Junee 3 Cootamundra 5 

(6) TEMORA Vs TUMUT : 10 July 1929

Gate: £205 (£217 including match programs) at 1/-; an estimated 4100 paying spectators
Result: Temora 22 Tumut 5

(7) COOTAMUNDRA Vs GUNDAGAI : 15 August 1953

Gate: £715 probably at 3/6; an estimated 4085 paying spectators. 5000 total according to the Daily Advertiser
Result: Cootamundra 13 Gundagai 12

(8) COOTAMUNDRA Vs TEMORA : 1 July 1925

Gate: £146, crowd reported as 4500
Result: Cootamundra 14 Temora 6

(9) COOTAMUNDRA Vs GUNDAGAI : 19 June 1954

Gate: £700/7/3, probably at 3/6; estimated 3840 paying spectators
Result: Cootamundra 21 Gundagai 17

(10) GUNDAGAI Vs COOTAMUNDRA : 23 August 1952

Gate: £658/17/6  at 3/6; estimated 3760 paying spectators
Result: Gundagai 10 Cootamundra 7

Other Contenders:

  • Young v Temora : 19 August 1931.  Almost £200 probably still at 1/-, or almost 4000.
  • Harden-Murrumburrah vs Tumut : 2 July 1960. Harden-Murrumburrah express gives gate as £724 at 4/- or 3620 paying spectators, another report at £745 or 3725
  • Gundagai vs Cootamundra : 10 May 1952. Gate £615 at 3/6 or 3515.
  • Gundagai vs Cootamundra : 6 June 1928. £173 at 1/- or 3460
  • Tumut vs Cootamundra : 16 August 1947.  Gate up to £343 at 2/- or 3430 paying spectators.
  • Boorowa vs Young : 25 April 1953. £577 at 3/6, counted as 3302

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