The Importance of Sydney Imports

While the Maher Cup was about small town locals battling against each other for bragging rights, to do so successfully usually required outside assistance.

For 40 years, beginning with Phil Regan of Glebe being paid by the burghers of Cootamundra in 1922 to captain and to coach some talented youngsters, the usual modus operandi for victory was to import a quality player or two, preferably with the skills to develop players.

Ten players from this match on 5 May 1951 at the SCG later played Maher Cup – five from each side.

In analysing the backgrounds of the approximately 3,000 men who played Maher Cup, some 235 (about 8%) have been identified (see list below) as coming from Sydney clubs. With more forensics and your help (contact me at more will surely be discovered.

This post seeks to stimulate discussion around when they came, who they were, why they came and what difference they made.


The graph below shows that the late 1920s and particularly the 1950s were the most fertile years for in-migration. The influx of 11 new imports of 1928 was not bettered until 1953 when 22 men were newly engaged by clubs cashed up with wool selling for a £1 a pound and crowds at all time highs – see The Biggest Maher Cup Matches post.

Over 40% of all Sydney imports came in the 1950s. Most (61%) played for just one season, although some such as Nevyl Hand (Norths to Gundagai), Fred De Belin (Balmain to Cootamundra) and Keith Cullen (Wests to Young) moved in for good.  Some (9%) moved on to join one or more other Maher Cup teams.


They ranged from Internationals at the peak of their career to young reserves and Presidents Cup players, often blocked for advancement by star players in their clubs and looking for opportunity.  Some, like Kevin Day, sort of ended up in a team by accident. It did include older men looking to extend themselves for another season and/or getting coaching experience but probably not as much as City people would like us to think.

1955. Nine members of this Young team were Sydney imports. Temora had none.

Some Group 9 clubs were cashed up by big crowds and the generous backing of supporter’s committees, local businesses and farmers.  The backers scrutinised the athletic credentials of incoming teachers, policemen, railway workers, bank officers and the like.  However fortunes came and went and almost all towns experienced a period where they were unable or unwilling to pay players.

To get a better understanding of the variety of players who came out, here is  a snapshot of 1953, when the following 22 Sydney players were newly engaged and participated in the Maher Cup.

  • Keith Aitken (Easts to Tumut).  An upholsterer, he played 65 matches as South’s hooker before moving to Easts after losing his spot to future International Ernie Hammerton.  He coached Tumut for three Maher Cup loses in 1953, but settled into the community running an automotive business.
  • Stan Archer (Newtown to Cootamundra).  He had played 18 matches for Newtown in 1952 before becoming a most successful hooker for Cootamundra.  In 1954 he continued being a paid player with Thirroul.
  • Milton Atkinson (Souths to Cootamundra).  The 6 foot, 14 stone-plus centre featured in the Rabbitohs premiership victories of 1950 and 1951 but was out for  1952 after fracturing his skull preseason.  He contributed to a most successful Coota team coached by colleague Bernie Purcell before returning to Maroubra at year’s end.
  • Bill Batley (Souths to Boorowa).  A Mascot junior and Souths reserve (and a champion diver) Batley’s trade was a plumber.  After a year at Boorowa he played for Temora where he  was involved in controversy when he put money on Boorowa (at long odds) to win again his team.  They did.  He moved on to Barmedman for three years and was a familiar name in match day programs advertising as ‘The Travelling Plumber”.
  • Terry Brogan (Balmain to Gundagai). It was probably not difficult to entice this prop, the son of West Wyalong legend Bill Brogan,  back to the country, especially to a crack Gundagai team coached by ex International Nevyl Hand to 24 successive victories in 1951-52. He stayed two years and then played a further season with Balmain.
  • Ralph Bryant (Parramatta to Gundagai).  It has been said that in Gundagai local member Billy Sheahan was effective in getting favourable transfers for footballers employed by the state government. Posted to tiny Tarrabandra school Ralph Bryant spent two years at Gundagai following 18 matches for Parramatta.  Cowra born, he married another Gundagai teacher and moved to her home town of Wagga.
  • Keith Cullen (Wests to Young).  Except for a year coaching at Dubbo, ‘Snapper’ Cullen played out his career – until 1965 – in Young. He had a fish and chip shop and remained part of the local community until his death.  One of Young’s best football grounds is named in his honour.
  • Kevin Curnow (St George to West Wyalong).  After being trialled this 23 year-old metal polisher from St George reserves became a paid player, courtesy of the Rugby League Supporters Club. When the appointed coach, a teacher, couldn’t arrange a transfer, Curnow was promoted.  At seasons end he returned to play in the St George lower grades.
  • John Edmonds (Norths to Young via Thirroul). The Norths 1950 & 1951 reserve grade five-eighth found success with Thirroul in 1952 and then moved to Young where he played a further three seasons.
  • Ernie Hammerton (Souths to Boorowa). Securing an International hooker with four grand final appearances under his belt and aged 26 at the peak of his career must have seemed to be too good to be true. It was. After leading Boorowa to a rare Maher Cup victory in April, the team lost to Young the following week and Ernie disappeared. Discovered soon after back at Redfern he has the probably unique honour of winning the Maher Cup and the Sydney premiership in the same year.
  • Darcy Henry (Easts to Temora). Originally from Tamworth, East’s teenage prodigy moved to Temora aged 20.  He has brilliant.  The town desperately tried to keep him for 1954 but were outbid by Forbes, The next year he was made an International from Forbes, later returning to Sydney with Wests until 1959.
  • Ian Johnston (Parramatta to Young).   Parramatta’s first International with five years and 90 games experience lead Young onto Alfred Oval before the biggest Maher Cup crowd of all time  on 16 May 1953.  Young that year only had one Maher Cup win but secured the Group 9 premiership at Murrumburrah before another big crowd. In 1954 Johnston continued both his international and club career with Parramatta and later Wests, taking a brief sojourn back home to Coonamble.
  • Bob Lawrence (Balmain to Young).  From Illawarra’s Northern Suburbs, hooker Lawrence played 8 games with Balmain in 1953. Although firmly ensconced in the position he took an offer from Young mid-season. Coming out with Keith Cullen he married a local lass and played Maher Cup for 5 years.
  • Frank Lawrence (Souths to Boorowa). One of four Rabbitohs who played for the Blue Metals in 1953.  A reserve grader he joined Easts in 1954, making 14 first grade appearances before returning to Boorowa for another year.
  • Algie Metcalf (Newtown to Cootamundra). After establishing himself as Newtown’s top five-eighth he joined other Newtown imports at Coota.  He starred in a great Maher Cup run for Cootamundra and later at West Wyalong, played 33 Cup matches in all.  At West Wyalong he was joined by Newtown to Cootamundra mates Lionel Wheatley and Darrell Fazio.
  • Bryan Orrock (Souths to Boorowa).  A member of South’s grand final sides of 1951 and 1952 Orrock came west with Ernie Hammerton and Stan Wenham. When Hammerton went missing Orrock became captain-coach, represented Riverina and narrowly failed to wrest the Maher Cup from Temora.  A handsome chap it was hoped he would marry a local and stay, but found a wife in the St George area where he enjoyed an illustrious career for club and country.
  • Bernie Purcell (Souths to Cootamundra). Purcell shocked Souths when he abandoned them. He considered that the £600 signing on fee, free accomodation and a job was an offer too good to turn down. He also thought leading a successful Maher Cup team would get him noticed for representative football. It did. Under his leadership Coota won 10 successive Maher Cup matches only to be sabotaged by a successful Harden challenge citing some arcane rules.
  • Don Sinclair (Easts to Temora).  Sinclair was an 11 year first grade veteran hooker at Easts and Canterbury, one of four top grade players snared by Temora in 1953.  In 1954 he raked for Balmain.
  • Lance Thompson (Parramatta to Temora).  For the first time in many years Temora decided to have paid players and started a supporters fund.  They got four good ones.  Thompson like other star player Ian Johnston at Young was sorely missed by Parramatta.  When he finished with Parra in 1958 he returned to Temora for a second season.
  • Rolf Trudgett  (Parramatta to Temora via Wellington & Glen Innes). Born at Young, Trudgett played first grade for Parramatta 1947-1950 before taking up captain coach positions at Wellington (1951), Glen Innes (1952) and Temora (1953).  Temora won the last six Maher Cup matches of the season. In 1954 he coached Penrith and played five-eighth for Parramatta before becoming captain-coach at Young in May.
  • Stan Wenman (Souths to Boorowa).  A lightweight forward from South’s lower grades, he played football for Boorowa for five years.  Nicknamed Jimmy Carruthers he was a fettler, and  keen pugilist, which affected his ability to stay on the field for 80 minutes, but probably did no harm in his other job as barman at the Central Hotel.
  • Les ‘Puffy’ Young (Newtown to Cootamundra).   Another first grader from Newtown to head to Cootamundra, he missed the first half of the season after cutting his foot on a broken bottle in the dressing room.  He went on to coach Tarcutta in 1954.

In 1953 all Maher Cup towns except Cowra, Harden and Junee employed Sydney coaches (and Junee’s local coach, Stan Larkings, had spent 1951 at Newtown).  In 21 of the 24 Cup matches the winners were captained by a Sydney import.

Which Sydney Clubs Did The Imports Came From?

Sydney ClubNo. of ImportsFive or more imports to…
Wests32Cootamundra (6), Junee (5), Young (5)
Balmain28Gundagai (5), Young (5)
Easts28Grenfell (5)
Newtown28Cootamundra (7), Harden-Murrumburrah (5)
Souths28Boorowa (6)
St George27Cootamundra (6), Boorowa (5)
Norths24Young (6)

There is remarkable uniformity between the contributions of the main Sydney clubs, bearing in mind those teams (like Glebe and University) that went out of the competition in early days and those that came in later (Parramatta, Canterbury, Manly and Penrith).

Not included above are many top quality local players who moved temporarily to the city but returned to their home towns to play Maher Cup: for example Col Ratcliff  and Ron Crowe (West Wyalong), Mick Crowe (Grenfell), Bert Rollason (Barmedman), Sid Hall and Sid Hobson (Young), Edgar Newham (Cowra), Lionel Wheatley (Cootamundra) and Stan Larkings (Junee).

Which Clubs Did The Sydney Imports Go To?

Here we see a marked difference.  Young and Cootamundra were the big importers of top ranked Sydney footballers.  Smaller towns Grenfell and Boorowa were also very active as they found they needed to do so to be competitive.  Clubs that were most willing to rely on local talent were Barmedman, Tumut, Junee, Harden-Murrumburrah and especially West Wyalong, which was probably the thriftiest club but also one that avoided boom and bust cycles.

ClubImportsFirst Grade PlayersLower Grade PlayersSeasons in Maher CupNew Players / seasonNew 1st Grade Players / season
West Wyalong1275410.290.17
Wagga teams65170.860.71

The Other Imports

Of course imports were not limited to Sydney players.  The following are just some of the significant players from other places that made a big difference to Maher Cup football:

  • Frank Blundell (Queanbeyan) played for Barmedman, Gundagai, Cootamundra and Temora from 1927.
  • Don Furner (Queensland) led Junee in 1964 to their first Cup victory for many years and their first Group 9 premiership.
  • Matt Grenfell (Dapto) coached the Harden-Murrumburrah team that held the Cup through the whole 1959 season and backed up for the Sunday competition to reach the grand final..
  • John Hobby (Coolah) coached Tumut for the last Maher Cup and beyond.
  • Bill Kearney (Queanbeyan) of Young became perhaps the most prominent Maher Cup personality, as player, coach, administrator and publicist.
  • Peter O’Connor (Cessnock) became a revered figure in Young football in the 1950s and 60s

Where Imports Beneficial?

It’s easy to forget that for many years and especially in the early 1950s the movement of talented footballers was primarily from city to country, and particularly to Maher Cup country.

For Maher Cup football to attain and sustain the high standard that made it famous required more that local talent and enthusiasm.  The city coaches raised the profile for both city and local audiences. They helped develop the interest and passion in the Maher Cup towns that inspired and resourced young footballers to seek glory.  The Maher Cup was a source of collective community pride in the southwest towns.

Boorowa News 18 June 1954


However there was a downside.  When clubs gambled on the success that the imports would bring, and that gamble failed, the club could find itself in a dire financial situation from which it took years to recover.  Cootamundra discovered this in 1935 and Grenfell in 1939.  However if gamble succeeded, as it did for Cootamundra and Young in the early 1950s weaker clubs became even weaker.  This lead to Tumut and Harden withdrawing from the Maher Cup in 1954 and Cowra the same year deciding to abandon Group 9 altogether. The focus on imports probably also fostered the reintroduction of Rugby Union which commenced in the mid 1950s.

Once the city clubs built their lucrative licensed clubs and networked television took over Rugby League the golden days of the Maher Cup towns inevitably came to a close.

Appendix: The List of Sydney Players

PlayerImported To:YearSydney Club
Abel, John Cowra1938Norths
Aitken, KeithTumut1953Easts
Algie, GeorgeTumut1932Balmain
Anderson, DutchyWest Wyalong1924Souths
Anderson, JackCowra1948Canterbury
Anderton, TeddyCootamundra1932Wests
Angus, RegBarmedman1949Norths
Archer, StanCootamundra1953Newtown
Ashton, JimBoorowa1957Souths
Atkinson, MiltonCootamundra1953Souths
Bagwell, PhilTemora1926Souths
Batley, BillBoorowa1953Souths
Battye, RonGundagai1952Balmain
Beavan, RayTumut1960Easts
Beck, BernieBoorowa1951Parramatta
Bernhardt, Jack 'Mo'Young1951Norths
Bischoff, BillyBarmedman1947Balmain
Bishop, RonTumut1956St George
Blair, Alf 'Smacka'Wagga1931Souths
Blundell, BarryGrenfell1954Easts
Booker, DinnyWest Wyalong1947Newtown
Bourke, BrianYoung1935Norths
Box, GillGrenfell1947Balmain
Bradley, JackYoung1955Canterbury
Brennan, NevilleBoorowa1951Parramatta
Brogan, TerryGundagai1953Balmain
Brown, LesTemora1947Souths
Bryant, RalphGundagai1953Parramatta
Budd, RonWest Wyalong1966St George
Byrne, PatGundagai1965Manly
Caldwell, MaxBoorowa1957Wests
Cameron, DougYoung1954Souths
Campbell, DinnyTemora1923Easts
Campbell, JimCootamundra1935Norths
Caples, HarryWagga1928Easts
Carroll, KeithBarmedman1949Norths
Casey, Arthur 'Doon'Tumut1932St George
Clare, JackGrenfell1947Balmain
Clinch, PeterBoorowa1957Wests
Cluff, KenWagga Kangaroos1969Parramatta
Conna, JohnJunee1961Wests
Considine, PeterBoorowa1957Canterbury
Courtney, Jack 'Possum'Harden-Murrumburrah1931Norths
Crofton, GavinCootamundra1965Easts
Cullen, KeithYoung1953Wests
Curnow, KevinWest Wyalong1953St George
Curry, ColinCowra1954Parramatta
Dawson, JohnTemora1925Easts
Day, KevinHarden-Murrumburrah1959St George
De Belin, FredCootamundra1951Balmain
Dempsey, Jack 'Inky'Cootamundra1930St George
Denton, MervYoung1941Canterbury
Dickenson, JimGrenfell1939Canterbury
Diversi, PeterGundagai1956Norths
Doney, DonBarmedman1948Easts
Donley, TeddyJunee1935Souths
Donohoe, ColBarmedman1950Easts
Doran, TomCootamundra1922Wests
Dransfield, AllanBoorowa1955St George
Duckworth, OliverBarmedman1935Balmain
Edmonds, JohnYoung1953Norths
Elliott, SidGrenfell1939Canterbury
Ellis, KeithJunee1928Newtown
Evans, LouTemora1950St George
Fallon, MalTemora1941Balmain
Farrington, FrankCowra1952Newtown
Fazio, DarrellCootamundra1952Newtown
Fennell, CharlieBarmedman1931Souths
Fifield, Cec 'Dick'Junee1930Wests
Fisher, LesCootamundra1945St George
Fitzpatrick, ColinBarmedman1935Balmain
Foody, FredBoorowa1956Norths
Fraser, Charles 'Chook'Gundagai1927Balmain
Garvin, BillYoung1955Balmain
Gibson, JackGrenfell1954Easts
Gill, JohnCootamundra1963Parramatta
Gittoes, KeithBarmedman1955St George
Graves, John 'Wacka'Cootamundra1954Souths
Gray, Max West Wyalong1936Wests
Griffin, HarryWest Wyalong1934Souths
Gulliver, DonJunee1946Easts
Hale, JimBoorowa1948St George
Hambilton, DougYoung1961Wests
Hamilton, HarryHarden-Murrumburrah1932Newtown
Hammerton, ErnieBoorowa1953Souths
Hampstead, JackYoung1947Balmain
Hand, NevylGundagai1949Norths
Hardy, LesHarden-Murrumburrah1964St George
Harris, SidCootamundra1929Souths
Hay, GregTumut1965Balmain
Henry, DarcyTemora1953Easts
Hey, DaveCootamundra1932St George
Hill, NoelJunee1956St George
Hinkley, WalTumut1964Wests
Hinton, MannyBoorowa1954St George
Hobbs, BobCootamundra1947Wests
Hockley, AlanYoung1955Canterbury
Hogan, NevilleYoung1949Wests
Holmes, BrianGrenfell1951Easts
Honeysett, BobYoung1960Norths
Horder, BillGrenfell1954Wests
Horder, ClarrieTumut1923Souths
Horne, PeterJunee1960Manly
Hyde, PatGundagai1954Balmain
Hyde, RayBoorowa1956Easts
Izzard, BobCowra1936Norths
James, RegGrenfell1951Norths
Jennett, JimHarden-Murrumburrah1963Newtown
Johnson, DanTemora1959Balmain
Johnston, AlexGundagai1924Souths
Johnston, IanYoung1953Parramatta
Jorgenson, JoeJunee1947Balmain
Jupp, DickJunee1928Wests
Kelly, Aub 'Jockey'Young1930St George
Kelly, Mick 'China'Harden-Murrumburrah1960Newtown
Kelly, RayGundagai1951Newtown
Kennedy, ClemGrenfell1950Newtown
Kermond, MaurieGrenfell1954Easts
Killiby, BillCootamundra1937St George
Kirk, TomBarmedman1948Newtown
Latta, Reg Wagga1927Balmain
Lawrence, BobYoung1953Balmain
Lawrence, FrankBoorowa1953Souths
Lennox, JackTemora1940Souths
Linde, FredGrenfell1928Newtown
Lindquist, JohnGundagai1954Newtown
Lomax, JohnHarden-Murrumburrah1971Newtown
Longhurst, BillGundagai1952Newtown
Lowe, GerryCowra1954Wests
Lucas, GeorgeGrenfell1948Wests
Ludkin, RogerGundagai1962Parramatta
Lumsden, JackHarden-Murrumburrah1961Manly
Main, GeorgeCootamundra1934Canterbury
Maizey, BillCowra1937Balmain
Maker, RegTemora1929Newtown
Malby, KevinTemora1957St George
Mansted, JoeYoung1925Wests
Mansted, SidTemora1924Newtown
Marsh, BillCootamundra1956Balmain
Martin, GordonGrenfell1954Easts
Mason, GeorgeBarmedman1930Wests
Mayo, BruceTumut1958Parramatta
Mays, PatBoorowa1956Parramatta
McFadden, AnthonyCootamundra1928Balmain
McGarry, JimTumut1950Souths
McKee, JimCootamundra1928Wests
McKenzie, JimCowra1954Wests
McMahon, LaurieYoung1952Newtown
McMenamin, JimYoung1934Newtown
McWilliams, BruceBarmedman1957Souths
Melville, HarryHarden-Murrumburrah1958St George
Metcalf, AlgieCootamundra1953Newtown
Milton, DonTemora1951Wests
Moore, GeorgeGundagai1923Souths
Morris, BillWest Wyalong1950Easts
Moses, VicWest Wyalong1932Souths
Mosman, KevinWest Wyalong1960Manly
Murden, JimYoung1935Balmain
Narvo, HerbCootamundra1947St George
Neville, EricWest Wyalong1937Norths
Nevin, BernieHarden-Murrumburrah1959Newtown
Noonan, AllanWest Wyalong1933Easts
Norden, FredGundagai1963Wests
Norman, JimBoorowa1957Easts
Norman, RexCowra1924Easts
O'Brien, BarryYoung1952Manly
O'Connell, JackYoung1954Norths
O'Connell, RonGundagai1946Easts
Orrock, BryanBoorowa1953Souths
Osborne, LionelTumut1961Canterbury
Parker, RayYoung1954Easts
Pasfields, BarryBoorowa1955St George
Peime, CliffJunee1949Wests
Phillips. Bill 'Chips'Gundagai1926Easts
Pierce, NevilleBarmedman1951Manly
Piper, DougYoung1951Canterbury
Pitman, TomCootamundra1952Newtown
Plater, JackGundagai1952Norths
Purcell, BernieCootamundra1953Souths
Ranier, ErnCowra1934Newtown
Redmond, James 'Tony'Grenfell1928Wests
Rees, WallyTumut1950Easts
Reeves, GusGundagai1934Balmain
Regan, PhilCootamundra1922Glebe
Rice, CharlieGrenfell1938St George
Ricketson, DougTemora1968Penrith
Ricketts, CharlieGrenfell1927Glebe
Robertson, GeorgeYoung1952Parramatta
Robertson, KenCootamundra1946Newtown
Robinson, Norm 'Latchem'Cootamundra1928Balmain
Rutherford, JimYoung1939St George
Ryan, Bill 'Hoot'Junee1932Wests
Ryan, MervCootamundra1945Norths
Ryan, TomTemora1954St George
Sait, BobTemora1958Souths
Schultz, FredYoung1940Balmain
Schumack, Jack 'Shooter'Tumut1928St George
Sinclair, DonTemora1953Easts
Smailes, CliffHarden-Murrumburrah1955Souths
Smith, FHarden-Murrumburrah1928Glebe
Smith, Reg 'Hero'Harden-Murrumburrah1964Parramatta
Smith, VivBoorowa1946Wests
Stenhouse, BarryHarden-Murrumburrah1955Canterbury
Stephens, CliveCootamundra1962Norths
Stewart, RayBoorowa1955Easts
Sullivan, BobTemora1956Norths
Summons, ArthurWagga Magpies1969Wests
Taplin, TeddyYoung1926Norths
Thompson, JackCootamundra1931Wests
Thompson, LanceTemora1953Parramatta
Thomson, JimCowra1950Balmain
Toohey, JohnGrenfell1927Glebe
Torpy, Gordon 'Norker'Cootamundra1928St George
Townsend, EricBoorowa1956Wests
Tranter, BrianTumut1962Balmain
Trevena, LeoYoung1955Canterbury
Trudgett, RolfTemora1953Parramatta
Trueman, GeoffBarmedman1954Manly
Tull, KeithCootamundra1949Parramatta
Turner, NevilleBarmedman1962Souths
Vest, DickWest Wyalong1923Wests
Walpole, NoelCootamundra1935Norths
Walsh, Jack 'Duck'Cootamundra1949Wests
Waters, CecGundagai1956Norths
Waterson, ArthurJunee1929Newtown
Waterson, StanJunee1935Newtown
Watkins, Jack 'Bluey'Tumut1925Easts
Watt, GeorgeBoorowa1947Easts
Wells, HarryYoung1968Wests
Wenham, StanBoorowa1953Souths
Whitton, BobCootamundra1952Newtown
Wright, TomJunee1932Norths
Wynn, AlfieBoorowa1955St George
Wynter, Edward 'Jim'Wagga1930University
Young, Les 'Puffy'Cootamundra1953Newtown


Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *