A Pictorial History of Cootamundra Rugby League to 1971

The following has been prepared with thanks to Susan Chambers and the wonderful resources that her father Wal Galvin diligently and painstakingly collected.

A football club was first formed at Cootamundra in 1882. The committee then debated what rules to adopt. Although they decided on the ‘Victorian game’ rather than Rugby the team did play at least one game of Rugby that year. In 1885 the ‘Our Boys‘ team provided the code with some permanence. By the 1895 Rugby was well established and a second team, the Pirates, enabled a home town derby.

Cootamundra Rugby Team 1914

Cootamundra Rugby Team 1914

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Gundagai 1921

Wirth's Circus in Sheridan Street, from Dr. Gabriel's photos.

Wirth’s Circus in Sheridan Street – from Dr. Gabriel’s photos.

1921 was the second year of Maher Cup football and its first under Rugby League rules.  For the first time Mr E.J. Maher’s trophy left Tumut. It was the year of Gundagai.

The transition to League was simple. By the time the Tumut and Gundagai area clubs met to decide whether to stay with Union or move to the more attractive code, nearby Junee, Harden and Cootamundra and just about every other town in the southwest, had already moved. The decision was made without rancour or acrimony.

But there was much more than football on the minds of Gundagai people…. Continue reading

Old Films of the Maher Cup, People & Life in & around Harden-Murrumburrah

filmThese two 20 minute (approx) videos, linked below and now placed on You Tube, are from a found film reel that was given to Wal Galvin of Cootamundra on DVD. The creator is unknown. It is uncaptioned and silent. Two things are clear from watching.  They were amateur films shot in the early 1950s. The main town featured is Harden-Murrumburrah, with some film also from Young and Goulburn as well as from a farm.

It would be wonderful to fill in the gaps. Who are the people? What Rugby League matches are being played and where? (Roberts Park, Murrumburrah?) What about the other sports the buildings and towns?  So much to discover.  Please leave some comments if you know. Continue reading

The Maher Cup Originals: Tumut and Gundagai in 1920

O'Brien family

The family of William Daniel Patrick O’Brien about 1897. Tom O’Brien went to war and returned to captain the first Tumut Maher Cup team. Here he is with his dad’s arm around him. Younger brother Assal and Orlando (top left) both died in the War.  [Source: Ancestry.com]

This post is an attempt to form an impression of life in the Gundagai and Tumut areas in 1920 through the prism of forty players from the two clubs who fought out the first Maher Cup match on Wednesday 14th July at the Tumut Racecourse.  For more on this first match go here.

Below are the team lists with brief biographical information. Further down is the analysis which you can jump to here.

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The Murrumbidgee Rugby League & the End of the Maher Cup

This article is largely based on Jack Weeks’ book The breakaway of the Murrumbidgee Rugby League : the forerunner and the aftermath 1960 – 1972.

In 1965 the logic of the Murrumbidgee Rugby League (MRL) breakaway was simply clear from the Riverina’s geography.

Boundaries of Groups 9 and 20 in 1965 in green, with the rebel Murrumbidgee Rugby League background in red.

The boundaries of Groups 9 and 20 in 1965 are in green, with red for the rebel Murrumbidgee Rugby League.

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Drawing the Barassi (Jim Keys) Line

The Barassi Line as determined by Ian Turner. Source: Wikipedia

The Barassi Line as determined by Ian Turner. Source: Wikipedia

Academic Ian Turner in 1978 invented the term Barassi Line to identify the border separating where men and boys played Australian Rules and where they preferred Rugby League. As you can see in the map it is all a bit too linear to be real. The only area along the line containing any significant population is the Riverina. So perhaps we can fine tune that line.

I must say I don’t like the line being called after  Ron Barassi – better to name it after a footballer who lived on the line and played Australian Rules on Saturday and Rugby League on Sunday – such as Eric Kuhn originally from Weethalle or Jim Keys from Gibsonvale.   So I’m calling my line the Jim Keys line. Continue reading

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

Audio

The idea of these short sound files of old newspaper articles is to prompt readers to share them with parents and grandparents who will remember the Maher Cup days.  The objective is to prompt memory, start discussions and re-engage with this history.  If you want me to record any particular reports of matches that a relative may have played in I’m most happy to.

Junee Footballers Caught in Floodwaters
Adventurous Trip in Futile Effort to Reach Cowra [for a Sunday match]. 4:34 mins.
Junee Southern Cross, reproduced in the Gundagai Independent, 27 July, 1950

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