Group 9 History: 1937

The hard years of the 1930s had taken attention away from rugby league. Group 9 was no longer the dominant country power. Putting together a first grade was challenging for key clubs, such as Harden-Murrumburrah, Junee and Grenfell; and even Cootamundra.

Cowra and Grenfell, on the border between the centralwest and the southwest, were sometimes part of Group 9 and sometimes not. In 1937 the NSWRL decided to relocate then to the Parkes-based Group 11. Cowra, with their eyes firmly focused on winning the Maher Cup, protested successfully (along with Grenfell) against their forced relocation.

A zoned regular competition, dubbed ‘home and home matches’ was established as a way of providing regular football and keeping clubs without cups solvent. This tentative step towards a Group 9 competition spluttered along; being almost derailed by the early withdrawal of both Junee and Cowra; the latter being only interested in the Cup. Gundagai were later fined for forfeiting matches.

The start of the Maher Cup season was delayed a week while Cootamundra sorted itself out, and then another when the 12th May celebrations to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI took over the Temora football ground.

When the heavily indebted Cootamundra Rugby League Football Club failed to reform for the second year the Pastime Club became the defacto Cootamundra first grade club. Formed in the billiards room at the back of Ted Mangan’s menswear store in Parker Street, where the key pastime was SP betting, the team was formed almost wholly from former De La Salle Old Boys, with Bill Killiby (ex-St. George and Boorowa) appointed captain-coach.

Three clubs; Tumut, Young and Cowra dominated the Maher Cup competition.  Attendances at last increased significantly to numbers not seen since 1930, signifying both an easing of the Depression, as well as the fact of the Maher Cup being hosted by the two towns, which with their surrounding villages, commanded the region’s largest population.

New technologies were coming into play.  The telephone, while an expensive tool for most people, was available to club secretaries, thus assisting communications between clubs and with Group 9. It may have reduced protests which had almost evaporated in 1936 and 1937.  The wireless receiver, also still expensive, was becoming increasingly present in middle-class homes, as  new stations opened to cover rural Australia.  If you couldn’t afford a radio the pub could. The economy of hotels was bolstered by punters pouring in for live sporting broadcasts (particular horse racing).  The combination of telephone and radio made is easier to bet, albeit illegally. The instant gratification which the technologies enabled, led to the rise and rise of the SP bookie in the late 1930s.

Radio Station 2GZ commenced broadcasting Cowra’s Maher Cup matches on the 14th July, instantly bringing into debate whether this was a good move or not. The Club suspected that it reduced attendances.

Although Norm Bounader of the Gundabidgee Theatre at Gundagai had screened local football matches back in 1923 there is little else recorded about filming rugby league in Group 9, until the Cowra v Temora Maher Cup match of 21 July was screened at cinemas, including at Young and Grenfell. At Young Superintendent Hartley Bergin of the ambulance service made movies of his clubs matches against Cootamundra and Temora, to be shown as a training aid.




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