Group 9 History: 1936

There was excitement in the air. The English were coming .

At the AGM the previous executive team of Alf Bennett (Junee), Clem Roddy (Tumut) and Harold Kaye (West Wyalong) were warmly endorsed and re-elected unopposed.  Cootmundra remained the HQ for Group 9 and amended Maher Cup rules were put and referred to Cootamundra for comment. Bennett’s submission that the 28 day residency be extended to 90 was defeated by the argument that it would put Group 9 teams at a disadvantage when challenging for cups outside of the Group. It was even agreed to affiliate with the Country Rugby League (CRL), currently run by ‘Potts Point farmers’, if only so that the local representatives could improve its poor performance.

At the two day CRL conference the town of Parkes was front and centre. The president was H.C.J. Ferris, formerly police sergeant of Parkes, and now, one assumes, residing at ‘Potts Point’.   The CRL had recommended to the NSWRL  that England games be hosted by Wagga and Dubbo.  Group 9 were not exactly happy when the NSWRL selected Leeton (and Parkes) instead.  In the final moments of the conference, when many fatigued delegates had ‘gone out to tea’ the Parkes presented a motion that the CRL to be abolished and the authority of the NSWRL reasserted.  ‘Riotous’ delegates, considering Parkes’ treachery as quid pro quo for getting the England game, called for Dubbo to be the host. Mr Ferris promptly closed the meeting.

The once mighty Cootamundra club was in disarray and found it difficult to even hold a meeting.  They did how manage to reject the modest Maher Cup rule changes – even Cootamundra’s claim to the first and last match was preserved.  However they failed to register for the draw and thus Group 9, virtually by default, took over the running of the Cup.  Cootamundra’s next challenge was to be more than a year away on 23 June 1937.

In April at Narrandera it became obvious that the balance of power in the south had changed dramatically, when Group 17 trounced Group 9 by 30 to 5. The combined team thay was formed to play at Goulburn included six Leeton men and only three from all the Group 9 towns: Stan Templeman (West Wyalong) and Tumut forwards Col Hargreaves and Jack Cruise. Hargreaves was the only representative in the Southern Districts side selected for Country Week,whereas previously no fewer than 6 had ever been chosen from Group 9 in a Southern side.

Watching from stands made of lug boxes supplied by local cannery about 6000 people saw the English defeat Southern Districts 35-13 at Leeton. Only Hargreaves and Temora’s Jack Melrose represented Group 9.

Later in a match billed as determining the ‘Champions of the South‘ Leeton played Temora, who’s talented young hooker, Jim Woods, had his collar-bone broken in the first few minutes.  Leeton won 13-10, and Woods was convinced by his employer to retire. He became a bandleader at Temora, later owned the Queanbeyan newspaper, and at 102 is (at January 2016) the oldest Maher Cup player still alive.

Interest in football seemed to reach a new low when the Group 9 delegates meeting on 30 August was disbanded due to lack of a quorum.  In contrast in Temora 300 people turned up to a function to honour a most successful team, which had an 11 game Maher Cup run then lost it to Tumut, won it back and was sitting pretty with the Cup as the year closed.  Little Bendick Murrell also had something to celebrate.  Coached by Sid Hall they went to Tumut to make their one and only ever challenge for the Maher Cup.

It felt as if the hard years of the 1930s had taken people’s attention away from Rugby League.   Group 9’s power was exhausted, its influence waning, and the clubs in 1936 seemed to not even enough energy to lodge the usual protests.

Group 9 History: 1935

For more than a decade Group 9 had enjoyed their own celebrity. Eric Weissel. Many neutrals would come just to see the wizard. Aged 31 his brilliancy still shone. But in 1935 he left town.

Weissel’s aura was such that the burghers of his new place of residence, the Australian Rules playing Narrandera,  decided to establish a Rugby League team around him.  This, along with the costs of travel and declining finances as the grip of Depression tightened, emboldened the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area teams of Group 17 to break away from the Groups 9 & 17 inter-town competition and have their own.

Narrandera even attracted St George to play out on the Murrumbidgee banks – and under the great Eric Weissel they even won the match.

With Fred Cahill, the Group 9 competition’s architect, mover and shaker, orator and networker, now residing down on the coast any thought of the value of inter-town competition vapourised.  Small town’s attentions moved back to the gamble of Cup football. Little attention was paid, as yet, to the Gundagai Independent which started its long campaign to rid Group 9 of the ‘big bubble and burst Maher Cup‘.  Cootamundra, Young and Temora – thinking themselves the big clubs – salivated for a return to a cup only season.  Wyalong also was confident of a great year.  It was one of the few clubs to have made a profit, and was luke warm about continuing with a competition.  It now thought of itself as a big club.  They were all to be surprised.

At the AGM Alf Bennett of Junee was re-elected unopposed as president and Clem Roddy of Tumut secretary.  The meeting was marked by an unusual civility, and no-one could remember such a gathering where all the business was actually completed.  It was like peace had broken out.  The treasurer Harold Kaye of West Wyalong soon came to be considered by all a revelation, he put books in order, and the Group was out of debt.

Coota’s businessmen decided to repeat their quest for imported players, which in 1932 had been an embarrassing failure. The following men came to reside temporarily in the town: Jim Gibb from Newcastle, Charlie Fennell (South Sydney), Noel Walpole and Jim Campbell (North Sydney), G. Malone (Forbes) and ‘Jum’ Miller (Young).  President Alf Bennett was unimpressed by this team stacking and sought, unsuccessfully, to introduce a 90 day residency requirement.

The local Cootamundra players grumbled about the paid players. After losing the Maher Cup to Tumut, amongst (perhaps unfounded) rumours that the imports had ‘sold the game’, the local men forced the club to sack the imports.  It took four years before Coota became competitive again.

Three of the top teams went totally amateur in 1935: Temora, West Wyalong and Tumut.  Tumut emerged triumphant as the team of the year. This team of lightning fast lightweight local lads backed up by a hefty but brilliant young kicker from Grahmstown named Tom Kirk, were all beautifully prepared by non-playing coach Joe Wilkinson. They kept the Maher Cup  for 14 challenges.

Tumut hosted the Maher Cup match of the year on 24 July, when hot challenger , import enriched Young, sent a plane out to a Kikiamah paddock so that its school-teacher Jim McMenamin could be transported directly by air to the Temora Racecourse ground in time for the Wednesday afternoon kickoff.  More than 3,000 folks crowded in for what was billed ‘the virtual country championship‘. Tumut snuck in 5-3 and then cleaned Young up again two weeks later 15-2.  At the end of the season Tumut were heralded by the city press and invited to play in the big smoke.  On their journey they defeated Gouburn 24-10, and ended up gaining great respect in their performance, narrowly losing to the premiers Eastern Suburbs before a crowd  of 5678.

Meanwhile Fred Cahill, now in Newcastle was still involved in the Country Rugby League.  The problem was that the organisation, he drove into existence just one year ago with the support of Group 9 and Newcastle was now being rejected by Newcastle, while Group 9 without Cahill were preoccupied with local matters.  Country Week staggered along without a lot of interest.  The first selection game against Group 8 at Canberra resulted in a loss and a weak gate of £35.

By August the fragile peace ended when Group 9 secretary Clem Roddy became outraged that Cowra was omitted from the Maher Cup draw. Cootamundra officials had conducted the draw knowing that Roddy was in another room at the hotel ‘having a cup of tea‘. This provided further fuel to the punter’s long held belief that there was often ‘something fishy’ about the process. Roddy ‘threatened to tell some things that will surprise, about the appointment of referees, alleged offers to some, and the alleged knowledge that some had known on Wednesday night last as to the particular teams that would be in the present Maher Cup draw’.  He didn’t, but did express the opinion that Cootamundra had presided over some crook draws.

Since 1924 after Cootamundra had won the Cup outright under Ted Maher’s rules, and then put it back into play, under their own, Coota’s total control of all Cup business to it’s own advantage had rankled everybody.  Group 9 president Alf Bennett instructed that new rules were to be put to next year’s AGM, with the threat that if Coota refused to accept them they could shove their Cup.  Coota’s ‘shabby treatment’ of Group 9 led Bennett to seek to move the headquarters back to Harden, where it was first constituted back in 1922.

Group 9 History: 1934

1934 started with a sense of excitement and disarray.  Townfolk crowded into their local football club meetings.  At West Wyalong and Junee the locals were less than satisfied with the performance of Group 9’s officialdom.

The Group 9 AGM in March was an acrimonious shambles, adjourned after six hours of indecision.  Wagga was upset they had been banished to a new Group 18 and everyone was at loggerheads about the state of the finances, where the money had gone and who’s fault it all was.  As usual Fred Cahill was in the thick of it – and perhaps saved his skin by regaling all present for an hour and a half of the benefits of the new Country Rugby League (CRL).

The following week another long meeting at least elected a new president – Alfred Bennett the owner of Junee’s Southern Cross newspaper, and secretary Lindsay Gown an insurance agent of Gundagai. In a slap in the face of an absent Fred Cahill affiliation with the CRL was only approved ‘under protest’ and on the casting vote of the chairman.  The practice of winner take all in Cup matches was at last challenged – with 25% to be allocated to the visiting team.

Cahill left Young and the shambles and got a publicity officer job in Newcastle for up to £750, a salary to make a professional footballer of the time green with envy.  His sparring buddy Harry Glanville of Junee got a better railways position in Sydney.

The elimination matches for Country Week, abandoned in 1933, were reinstated with gusto.  A double header at Junee produced great football under Eric Weissel – Group 9 defeated Group 8 by 18-6, while Group 17 downed the new Group 18 from Australian Rules country 20-2 – but the two only attracted a £45 gate.  Group 9 bounced back to its best at Griffith beating Group 17 by 44 to 8 with £102 taken.

Group 9 representatives of 1934: Back from left - A. Phair (Junee), Bill Newcombe (Young), Reverend Dudly Leggatt (Young), Jack James (Cootamundra), Bill Thompson (Grenfell), Jack Whitty (Junee), Norman Bland (Temora, president); Front - Bert Williams (West Wyalong), Bill Kearney (Young), Tom Stanford (Temora), Eric Weissel (Temora, captain), Jim Woods (Temora), Sid Hall (Young), Jack Melrose (Temora)

Group 9 representative players of 1934: Back from left – A. Phair (Junee), Bill Newcombe (Young), Reverend Dudley Leggatt (Young), Jack James (Cootamundra), Bill Thompson (Grenfell), Jack Whitty (Junee),  with Norman Bland (Temora, president); Front – Bert Williams (West Wyalong), Bill Kearney (Young), Tom Stanford (Temora), Eric Weissel (Temora, captain), Jim Woods (Temora), Sid Hall (Young), Jack Melrose (Temora). Officials on flanks unknown.  Source: courtesy Jim Woods

 

The Gleeson Shield competition kicked of reporting an £18 profit in 1934.  The teams were unchanged, except that Barmedman declared themselves broke and withdrew just prior to the starting date.

It was quite a chaotic year. Cootamundra was on the end of some drastic action from Group 9 when they were banned for the season for playing two unregistered players, C. McManus and T. Russell. West Wyalong were then out of sorts as they were due to host Coota for the Maher Cup and the Mallee Men were salivating over a possible record gate.  The match was cancelled and then the Group 9 executive changed their decision – imposing a fine that Cootamundra would find difficulty in paying, but did. Cowra got into a dispute with Tumut and the cost of travelling and withdrew from Group 9, while Gundagai and Coota decided to play a Gleeson Shield match with reserves, the gate amounted to 30/-.  In June the MIA teams were also grumbling about travel costs and looking at a more local competition in 1935.

Cootamundra also made an interesting protest against the Reverend Dudley Leggett’s participation for Young in  a Maher Cup match.  The Maher Cup was played on Wednesdays.  Leggett was the Anglican minister at Boorowa, so Coota claimed he shouldn’t play for Young. In 1934 Boorowa didn’t field a Rugby League.  Doesn’t matter said Coota, Boorowa is in Group 8 and Young is in Group 9.  He should play with Yass then, the nearest Group 8 club to Boorowa.  However Yass only played on Sunday, which was for Reverend Dudley part of his working week.  Amazingly this one dragged out for many weeks. It brought the Coota practice of deciding on its own protests to a head.

There was also much ado about the Maher Cup draw and numerous unpleasantries. The West Wyalong Advocate provided a neat summary of the season’s convoluted disputations here.  1934 ended in pessimism and disarray One could only hope that the Group 9 might get through another year without open internecine warfare.

Leeton won the Gleeson Shield for the second year, downing Tumut 14-6 in the final.

 

Group 9 History: 1933

The argument was that the few clubs willing to spend big on imported players were the ones that won the Maher Cup and thus got all the matches, while those that couldn’t or were unwilling to spend up, stumbled along with ‘incomplete football programmes‘.  So the cry was for a regular competition throughout Group 9 and either for a reduction of, or end to, imports.

Things came to a head partly because most of the clubs could see that they were moving towards insolvency.  Even usually cashed-up Cootamundra had paid its players £230 in 1932 and only received gate takings of £180.

So in 1933 a real competition, rather than just challenge cups, finally got started.  The paid players were a little fewer in 1933 but as soon as clubs found some funds they spent up.  Trying to buy the Maher Cup continued for another 25 years.

Secretary Fred Cahill drafted the new competition’s rules and structures. Cahill was energetic and effective but not universally loved.  He only scraped in at the AGM as Group 9 secretary, after a tied vote.  Starting mid afternoon and still going heatedly along until after midnight the delegates elected Norman Bland the Temora builder president with Jim Maloney of Cootamundra retaining the treasure’s job…briefly.  Maloney, a bank clerk, was charged with embezzlement four months later.

All Group 9 teams except Wagga agreed to enter the combined Groups 9 & 17 competition, which, to minimise travel, was divided into western and eastern zones.  The east was: Tumut, Gundagai, Cootamundra, Harden, Young, Cowra and Grenfell, the west was: Junee, Temora, Barmedman, West Wyalong, Griffith, Yenda and Leeton.  There would be semi finals and finals in each division and a grand final between the winners of each, for the Gleeson Shield. Harden withdrew before the comp. commenced

‘Bunny’ Poplin of Young captured the anti-NSWRL mood at the AGM when he moved that Group 9 ‘take no action in regard to Country Week games’.  He asserted that ‘the elimination matches, were always a dead loss to the Group, and the Group was heavily in debt, while the head body had backed out of its obligations, to pay the loss on the Group 9 tour last year. The city grabbed the profits from the Country Week games in Sydney, but left the losing part of the show to the Groups. On top. of that the city took all the profits from the inter-State and International matches, using country players, and eventually used that money, or portion of it, to help the city clubs to poach the country players’.

Fred Cahill had written to all the country Groups seeking their support to form a separate Country Rugby League.  The response was mixed, but in July the influential Newcastle Group threw their weight behind Group 9’s initiative and everyone was readying for a big meeting.

Group 9 had by 1933 been widely seen as having the best quality football in country NSW. No longer focused on Country Week eliminations, attention was directed to the challenge by Group 17 for Group 9 ‘s mantle of ‘country champions’ on 15 May.

Attracting 3,000 people paying a record gate of £176 at Leeton, where Rugby League (as in Wagga) played second fiddle to Australian Rules, Group 17 surprised, winning 9-8 .  The teams were:
Group 17: Ted Fromholtz (Leeton), Laurie Smith (Yenda, formerly Barmedman), W. Morris (Barellan) Matt Ryan (Leeton), Albert ‘Dutchy Stokes (Leeton), Norm Pope (Leeton, formerly Easts) and Tom Grahame (Leeton), Jack Kingston (now at Leeton), Leo Doran (Griffith, formerly University), Bob ‘Burley’ James (Griffith), Jim Smythe (Leeton), Doolan Murray (Griffith, a noted Aboriginal boxer from Erambie at Cowra), Cec Rubie (Yenda), W. Dunn (Barellan)
Group 9: Frank Blundell (Temora), Len Cooper (West Wyalong), Abe Hall (Young), Arnie Small (Harden), Dave Grimmond (Junee), Alan ‘Snowy’ Lynch (Temora), Bill Kearney (Young), Bill ‘Hoot’ Ryan (Temora, brother of Matt Ryan for Leeton), Stan Cooper (Barmedman), Norrie Forrest (Cootamundra), Bill Maizey (Cowra), Gus Gray (Junee), Artie McShane (Temora) and R. McMenamin (Grenfell).

The following week the eastern and western teams commenced play in the Groups 9 & 17 competition.  It didn’t start well, Grenfell only getting a £13 gate when they hosted Cootamundra and Wyalong went to Temora to find they were playing the reserves, the top players were engaged in the lucrative Jack Hore Gold Cup.  After heated argument the Group 9 clubs agreed  to field their strongest possible teams for the Sunday comp.

West Wyalong and Temora spent most of the season arguing about the Maher Cup – which is a long story and has it’s own blog – go here for more!

The final table for the Western Division

The final table for the Western Division

Money was scarce. Competition gates seemed to average about £20 or 400 spectators. When Tumut, a quite formidable team and passionate Maher Cup chasers, were due to challenge Temora on 2 August for the Maher Cup they withdraw. With two of their good players out it just wasn’t worth the expense to travel.

Short of funds an with no big game scheduled Groups 9 and 17 decided to arrange another match between among themselves in August for what they billed as the ‘country championship‘.  With only six of the Group 9 selections making themselves available Group 17 won convincingly 35-8 over a ‘leaderless legion‘.  The gate was £114.  The next week a combined Groups 9 & 17 team went to Parkes and were drubbed 41-13 by Group 11.  With Eric Weissel out, with perhaps now just too much football, and with few class imports moving west, Group 9 didn’t look like the famous country champions any more.

Leeton clearly had the best town team in 1933.  Cowra went down 23-7 in the final at Temora.  The gate, a modest £41.  There was now distinct concern across the Riverina, amongst Rugby League and Australian Rules clubs, about the marked fall off in revenue.

In November Fred Cahill’s other dream of a Country Rugby  League came into being.  More on that in 1934.

 

Group 9 History: 1932

With visits to Balmain and from England on the drawing boards Group 9 got energized early.  The AGM, held in the first week of March finishing up as the sun rose. Henry Paton lost the presidency to Cootamundra’s Bill Flanigan, while Fred Cahill defeated Coota’s troublesome referee Tom Alberts for secretary. J. Maloney of Cootamundra was appointed treasurer.  Secretary Harry Glanville stood down miffed that the clubs had their snouts in the trough slurping up last year’s hard-earned surplus.

As the Depression (and Jack Lang) gave renewed impetus to the Riverina’s “new state movement” the seeds of secession were also being sown in sport.  The issues were many, including:

  • The NSWRL’s practice of over-riding, on appeal, Group 9 decisions arising from match protests. In particular the Temora-Tumut decisions rankled.
  • An unreciprocated policy that visiting city teams receive a 50% cut of match receipts, as well as outside pressure to end the Maher Cup’s entrenched winner-takes-all approach to the gate-takings.
  • NSWRL insisting that Wagga be the venue for the coming England match whereas Group 9 had determined that Cootamundra promised the bigger crowd.
  • The movement of players between city and country. Whereas the NSWRL had never been concerned about country footballers advancing their careers in the big smoke, the movement of players out of a depressed Sydney, and particularly to Maher Cup towns, had them worried.  When Grenfell put out a call seeking a couple of paid players they received some 107 applications. Head office put up £400 for city clubs to try and prevent the talent drain.

The season started early in March when Group 9 (with guest Wally Prigg) taking on Balmain in a pre-season match at the Sydney Sports Ground. The team lost 29-21 and consisted of: Laurie Ward (Harden), Les Griffin (Tumut), Abe Hall (Young), Jim Mortimer (Junee), Len Cooper (West Wyalong), George Mason (Barmedman), Eric Weissel (Temora), Mick Crowe (Grenfell), Bob Duncan (Tumut), George Williams (Junee), Wally Prigg (Newcastle), Roy Keogh (Young) and Jack Kingston (now back at Cootamundra). The loss was disappointing as was the gate of £295, from the 5000 crowd.

Cowra joined Group 9.  Cootamundra imported five paid players – Teddy Anderton (Wests), Dave Hey (St. George), Ernie Capelin (Lismore), Cec Willard, J. McCue, and got Jack Kingston back from Young.  In preparation for ‘Country Week’ Group 9 destroyed Group 8 by 41-18, but interest in the Sydney matches was waning. In May the Queensland state side came to Cootamundra and defeated a weakened Group 9 selection 18-12.  The gate was £128 of which £100 went to Queensland.  And in July at Temora a testimonial match was held for Eric Weissel.

Temora finally gave up the Maher Cup to Tumut, who opened the season by defeating Cootamundra’s imports before a record Tumut gate.  The boys from the hills then fended off seven more challengers before the railway men from Junee dominated the latter matches.  In the last game of the season Temora regained the Cup it had so reluctantly relinquished.

In July as the English game loomed ‘ultimatums were in the air’ and a Group 9 breakaway seemed very possible.  The triggers included:

  • The NSWRL continuing to insist the big match be held at Wagga, as well as expecting the Group to finance it and bear any loss that may result.
  • The response to the above from the NSWRL to the above, which was to ban all Group 9 cup games on that day – thus likely to cause further loss of revenue for Group 9 members.
  • The NSWRL had brought pressure to bear on star players Eric Weissel, Jack Kingston, Sid Hall and George ‘Biggun’ Williams to not play in the Group 9 v Queensland match in May.  Their absence had reduced the gate.
  • Called ‘big frogs in a little puddle’ Group 9 administrators were lampooned by the Sydney sporting press. This didn’t help.

Solidarity was not a term used within Group 9. Cracks appeared. Both Junee and Maher Cup holders Tumut backed the Wagga match and decided not to play in competing fixtures.  Cootamundra and Young informed Tumut that it was not their place to make such a decision as Cootamundra controlled the scheduling of Maher Cup matches. Young declared they would be going to Tumut to challenge anyway.

Cootamundra and Cowra planned to hold a Weissel Cup match to clash with the England game.  Group 9 withdrew its affiliation with the NSWRL.  Fred Cahill, now in the powerful position of secretary sent a manifesto to all clubs in the state. Tumut made it star players Norm ‘Latchem’ Robinson, Tom Forbutt and Tom Sloane available to meet the English at Wagga.

To the embarassment of Group 9 the Wagga match attracted a big crowd, some 15,000 according to the Daily Advertiser but this was disputed by the Cootamundra Herald which observed that the gate was smaller than the England match at Cootamundra back in 1928. There certainly wasn’t a united front amongst country clubs (let alone Group 9 clubs), to Fred Cahill’s manifesto.  One country leader was reported in the Sydney Sportsman as saying: ‘Do you think we’re mugs enough to fall in with a crowd that can’t manage its own affairs, yet wants to get everybody into the same mess they’ve got themselves into?

Of course Young claimed the Maher Cup due to Tumut’s ‘forfeit’ and Cootamundra as the Cups’ controllers concurred.  The Referee newspaper predicted the death of the Maher Cup.  But on 31st July at Cootamundra the NSWRL and Group 9 suddenly settled their differences.  The NSWRL agreed to contribute to the gate losses in the Queensland match and support the Country Constitution Conference scheduled for October.  Group 9 agreed to reaffiliate. Most importantly Maher Cup peace prevailed with the trophy remaining at Tumut.

The NSWRL even agreed that Group 9 under Eric Weissel’s captaincy could make a tour of country centres in September.  The matches were all won – at Parkes (gate £57), Glen Innes (gate £140 plus £100 received in rain insurance) and at Scone (a gate £186 and 4,000 crowd).  They finished up in Sydney at the Sports Ground on 1 October, going down to Souths 16-19.

Cartoon from The Truth 1 October 1932

Cartoon from The Truth 1 October 1932

 

The South-Western Competition established in 1930 continued but with just five teams: Young, Grenfell, Cowra, Boorowa and Harden-Murrumburrah and some forfeits it just hobbling along.  Gate receipts fell away badly.  The Country Conference was held in October but little was reported except squabbling.

Group 9 History: 1931

If Cootamundra were disappointed when Eric Weissel went to Temora in 1927.  This time they were ropeable when Jack Kingston, their home grown champion, Kangaroo and captain-coach, was enticed to coach and captain Young for the 1931 season.  In replying to criticism Kingston defended his move saying that it had been impossible for him to get a job outside football.  This set the tone for the depression era.  Players who had jobs often retired because the risk of injury could jeopardise their employment, and men in the country and city who were skilled enough to be paid for playing football were often desperate to earn a living from the sport.

Cootamundra surprised by joining the Young sponsored South-Western Competition, so the six ‘A’ teams were Young, Cowra, Grenfell, Boorowa, Harden-Murrumburrah-Galong and Coota…for two weeks.  Cootamundra then pulled out citing ‘financial reasons’. During quite a wild ‘friendly’ between Coota and Young at Fisher Park a fortnight later, Young, taking exception to decisions of Cootamundra referee and club delegate Tom Alberts, walked off the field.  Young’s three ex-Coota Jacks, Jack ‘Kinky’ Kingston, Jack ‘Inky’ Dempsey and Jack Walkom, were all duly suspended by the Group 9 judiciary.

The Young sponsored South-Western Competition was again successful.  In the final Cowra defeated Grenfell 3-0 before a crowd of 2000-3000.

At the Group 9 AGM, Junee secured both the president (Henry Paton) and secretary (Harry Glanville) positions,  Grenfell joined from Group 11, and it was decided that country referees to be favoured as their city cousins were too expensive.

Fred Cahill continued to show verve and arouse the hostility of other Group 9 officials. This time he arranged for the Queensland state side to play at Young against the local Southwest Competition teams.  A £160 surety was posted. President Paton from Junee complained about Cahill to the NSWRL, wanting the game in a town south of Young under the sponsorship of Group 9.  A compromise was eventually reached with expenses and profits being split 50% between Southwestern and Group 9.  A Group 9 team selected and all cup ties on the day were held over. Unfortunately heavy rain fell during the match, with some roads into Young flooded and only £143 taken at the gate. Queensland won 19-10 and the total loss on the match amounted to £120.

In a desperate effort to recoup their losses Group 9 invited a representative City side to Junee for a £100 take all challenge. Group 9 were to be given 10 points start and the winners would keep all the gate money.  However the NSWRL, considering that such games amount to wagering, ended the proposal. So Group 9 decided to offer the same challenge to top Sydney club Western Suburbs, now captain by West Wyalong’s Bill Brogan.

The Wests game at the Sydney Sports Ground attracted a very healthy 11,000 spectators on a cold and blowy date.  The country lads won 29-21, with this bunch of very talented men representing Group 9: Frank Blundell (Temora), Jim Mortimer (Junee), Abe Hall (Young), Cec Fifield (Junee), Jack Walkom (Young), Eric Weissel (Temora), Jack Dempsey (Young), Jack Kingston (Young), Arthur Waterson (Junee), Jack Brown (Young), Bill Lawrence (Barmedman), R. Kilpatrick (Wagga), and Jack Fitzgerald (Junee).  The gate was a massive £648 with £130 profit going into the Group 9 coffers.

The South-Western Competition towns based around Young challenged the more southern and western Group 9 towns (yes, I do realise this is confusing), to a match at Cootamundra   The gate was a useful £111 with the South-Western Competition team winning 23-18.  The teams: Group 9 – Frank Blundell (Temora), Jim Mortimer (Junee), Cec Fifield (Junee), Horace Turner (Temora), Len Cooper (Barmedman), Eric Weissel (Temora), Joe Egan (Junee), Arthur Waterson (Junee), Jack Stephenson (Temora), Bill Lawrence (Barmedman), Jack Fitzgerald (Junee), Charlie Fennell (Barmedman), R. Kilpatrick (Wagga) – South-Western: Laurie Ward (Harden), Jack Walkom (Young), Abe Hall (Young), Jack Courtney (Harden), Arnie Small (Galong/Harden), Jack Thompson (Cootamundra), Jack Dempsey (Young), Jack Kingston (Young), Mick Crowe (Grenfell), Bill Killaby (Boorowa), Bill Maizey (Cowra), Jack Brown (Young) and Gordon Hinton (Cootamundra).

In late September another Group 9 team went down to the big smoke and played South Sydney before a crowd of more than 20,000.   The team was: Laurie Ward (Harden), Jim Mortimer (Junee), Cec Fifield (Junee), Sid Harris (Grenfell), Arnie Small (Harden), Eric Weissel (Temora), Jack Dempsey (Young), Mick Crowe (Grenfell), Arthur Waterson (Junee), Tom Forbutt (Tumut) George ‘Biggun’ Williams (Junee), Gus Gray (Junee) and Jack Fitzgerald (Junee). Although they were defeated 31-15 the huge gate of £1188 filled the Group 9 coffers to overflowing.  As the Depression deepened, football in Group 9 country was sitting pretty well on top of the world.

Then the clubs voted to distributes the profits to themselves. President and secretary Paton and Glanville were outraged that the funds they had built up against all odds in such difficult times were to be squandered. Harry Glanville simply refused to authorise the distribution.

The Barmedman Maroons continued to be one of the strongest sides.  However West Wyalong did not grant permission for star winger Len Cooper to play for them in 1931. So Cooper moved into Barmedman to wait out his 28 day residency. After five successful challenges, and with Cooper in the Barmedman team, Young took the Maher Cup of the villagers 3-2.  Temora had the best Cup run and in the final match of the season destroyed Cootamundra 61-12, now just a shadow of a team.

However it was a year of many many protests across all the major Cups in play, not just the Maher Cup. The all time mother of Maher Cup protests commenced on the 9 September and seethed for eight months and numerous appeals to various bodies later.  It was basically a very simple matter.  Tumut came to Temora and took the Maher Cup in a surprising 12-1o win, with a team which included two born and bred Tumut juniors, Mick Mulvihill and John Ibbotson, that the Tumut secretary had overlooked to register them with Group 9 authorities. The injustice of Temora winning the protest on such a small technicality took some time, lots of money spent on lawyers, stacks of angst and anger, to sort.

The protests became entrenched and increasingly mendacious as the Depression hit hard.  The crowds dwindled but the passion didn’t. The Temora-Tumut protest, involving numerous backflips from head office, also intensified anti-NSWRL feelings and the idea of a separate Country Rugby League was becoming increasingly attractive.

Group 9 History: 1930

By 1930 the borders for Group 9 were starting to firm up.  The previous year Group 17 was created in 1929 to cater for the Irrigation Area towns, while Grenfell and Cowra were now locked into the Parkes based Group 11, Boorowa wanted to be part of Group 9 but were allocated to the now Queanbeyan based Group 8.  Group 9 still extended south to the Murray River. Like how Terra Australis was once mapped to Antarctica, there existing and unfulfilled dream that one day fertile ground may be found suitable to colonise League in the land of Aerial Pingpong.

The decade started with a new Constitution covering all the country Groups. At the Group 9 AGM Henry Paton, a locomotive inspector from June was elected president and Jim Gardner of Gundagai re-appointed secretary. Charles Inson the former Group treasurer, and often referred to as ‘the father of football in the south‘ became it’s first patron.

Fred Cahill was still on the committee but now was more interested in developing his football plans for his own area.  If Group 9 wouldn’t come to the party he would start a regular home and away competition for the towns and villages about Young.  The ‘South-Western Football Competition’ came to be. Composed of a compact collection of clubs: Cowra, Grenfell, Young, Harden-Murrumburrah, Boorowa, Bendick Murrell and Galong it crossed Group boundaries .  A reserve grade competition also ran with Maimaru and Monteagle contributing teams.

The South-West Competition table. Twelve rounds were played.

The South-West Competition table. Twelve rounds were played.

Little Bendick Murrell appointed Sid Hall as coach and were able to register more players than an other team in the competition, putting up two full teams, emerging as points runners-up in the first grade and premiers in reserve grade. Young were the first grade minor premiers but were beaten by Grenfell in the final who secured the ‘Toohey Pilsener Shield.  However the first year of the Great Depression was a difficult time to start such a new competition and financial worries loomed large.

The seeds for confrontation were sown at the AGM when the Tumut delegate, sensing the weakening of Cootamundra’s dominance, sought to have all challenge cup matters brought under the control of Group 9. Naturally Cootamundra, being the owner of the Maher Cup rules, if not currently the Cup, were vehemently opposed. However they won the argument, supported by unlikely ally Barmedman who believed that local control was necessary to encourage local businesses to sponsor such cups.

Group 9 needed funds to operate.  The only promise of profitability was if they promoted a big match each year.  In 1930 they eyed the New Zealand tourists due from over the ditch.  With the executive no longer dominated by Cootamundra, Temora was selected to be the venue for the proposed match. However delegates later backed down after being convinced that Coota’s location at the junction of all the rail lines promised a bigger gate.  This of course caused uproar in Temora.  Secretary Gardner of Gundagai then refused to submit the Group 9 meetings change of heart over the venue to the NSWRL.

Canowindra's beloved Jack Hore Memorial Gold Cup.

Canowindra’s beloved Jack Hore Memorial Gold Cup.

In June things got complicated in a tussle over Eric Weissel. Temora wanted him for a big match at Canowindra on a Sunday for the Jack Hore Memorial Gold Cup, a trophy that generated as much passion as the Maher Cup some central-west and northern Riverina towns. However the NSWRL had selected him to captain the state against Queensland the day before.   The mercurial Fred Cahill stepped in and negotiated that Eric would play both games – being driven overnight from Sydney and Canowindra.  It was an arduous journey with the car having to ‘plough through snow‘ at Lithgow. Temora won the match, Weissel scored a try, and with a 5000 crowd and and a massive £200 gate it was, the biggest football game to that date at Canowindra. Weissel was then selected for the Kangaroos vs The Rest match the following week.  Off course the Temora club required him for their Jack Hore defence against Orange.  The NSWRL executive were clearly annoyed by all this, but threw their hands into the air and let Weissel do what his Temora benefactors wanted him to.

The NSWRL gained some revenge by deciding to transfer the proposed New Zealand game from Temora to Young. This ‘tyrannical and petty’ action of course annoyed just about everyone in Group 9, except Fred Cahill who was on the one hand praised for sorting out the Weissel mess and damned for meddling in matters, where a being just one of a number of Group 9 vice-presidents, he had no authority.  And of course he could always be guaranteed to be looking after Young’s interests.

Temora, captained by Eric Weissel in 1930: Back – Eric Curran, Charlie Bray, Norm Bland, George King, Reg Maker Middle – Leo Curran, Horace Anthony, Eric Weissel, Norm Dundas, Alan'Snowy' Lynch, Bob Boyd Front – Joe Constable, Harold Thomas, Harry Owen, Jack Stephenson. Source: Temora Dragons Rugby League Club via Facebook.

Temora, captained by Eric Weissel in 1930: Back – Eric Curran, Charlie Bray, Norm Bland (president), George King, Reg Maker
Middle – Leo Curran, Horace Anthony, Eric Weissel, Norm Dundas, Alan’Snowy’ Lynch, Bob Boyd
Front – Joe Constable, Harold Thomas, Harry Owen, Jack Stephenson. Source: Temora Dragons Rugby League Club via Facebook.

 

In August amidst much rancour the New Zealand match was finally held – at Young.  Temora of course banned Weissel from participating and Group 9 president Henry Paton and his Junee club were mightily perturbed that Cahill obviously had contacts at the NSWRL that they did not.  In the end the team did not represent Group 9 and was labelled ‘Southern Districts‘.  It was a talented side but clearly not the strongest available: Laurie Ward (Harden), Jack Payne (Barmedman), Laurie Smith (Barmedman), Viv ‘Snowy’ Marsh (Tumut), Jack Walkom (Cootamundra), Sid Hall (Bendick Murrell & Young), A. Coates (Cowra), Jack Kingston (Cootamundra), Sid Moxom (Cowra), B. Garry (Boorowa), Bill ‘Sorlie’ Crowe (Grenfell), Jack ‘Blue’ O’Malley (Young) and Charlie York (Yass). They lost 24-20. The gate of £277 was healthy but smaller than two recent Maher Cup matches at Cootamundra.

Earlier in the season the Country Week Group 9 team was Jim Jeffery (Tumut), Alan Ridley (Temora), ‘Chips’ Phillips (Cootamundra), Jack Fitzgerald (Junee), Les Griffen (Tumut), Stan Cooper (Barmedman), Jack Dempsey (Cootamundra), Jack Kingston (Cootamundra), Jack James (Cootamundra), Tom Forbutt (Tumut), Alf Tasker (Cootamundra), Wilf ‘Woody’ Field (Gundagai) and Bill Lawrence (Barmedman). They played the new Group 17 at Junee, and with a combined Groups 9 & 17 team they trouncing Group 8 at Cootamundra a week later. Eight Group 9 players were selected in the Southern team for ‘Country Week’, those above in italics above plus Keith Ellis (Junee) and ‘Shooter’ Schumack of Cootamundra.

For the first time the Country Week teams were seeded.  ‘Southern’ were considered the top country team so they were matched with the mighty South Sydney – going down 25-22 in a quality match. They also played Newcastle, losing 20-7.

Meanwhile the Maher Cup had a successful year with Barmedman, Young and Cootamundra having decent runs and with crowds still robust.  The Len Cooper case dominated discussion out in the Mallee Country.  Cooper who lived 14 miles from Barmedman and 8 miles from West Wyalong, had fallen out with Wyalong coach ‘Bad’ Bill Brogan, and had been playing with Barmedman for two years. He was one of their star players and wanted to stay. After much huffing and puffing Wyalong granted permission – only to rescind it in 1931.

Grenfell Record 3 July 1930

Grenfell Record 3 July 1930

In a classic Maher Cup dispute Wagga and Young got out their respective surveyors to determine if Monteagle resident, and crack player, Bill Crowe (different from Grenfell’s Bill Crowe) , lived within 10 miles of the Young Post Office.  As could be expected in matters relating to Young, the Cootamundra club’s controlling committee initially favoured the challengers Wagga, but the next week changed their minds once accurate measuring convinced them that Crowe lived only some 9 miles and 77 chains away. Naturally the punters spread rumours that mile posts had been dug up and temporarily relocated.

Frustration with the Maher Cup draw led Temora to introduce a new resplendent Cup similar to Canowindra’s popular Jack Hore Gold Cup, challenge the ‘Old Tin Pot’ for Wednesday supremacy. Eric Weissel was of course the great drawcard so it was named after him.

Football crowds were still pretty good in 1930. But the Depression was about to really bite.

Group 9 History: 1929

At the AGM Temora again commented on the “ceaseless chasing of cups” and considered that “competition matches are more desirable than cup matches”. On the other side of the argument treasurer Charles Inson from Cootamundra claimed that cup matches “had made football in the south”, while Tumut felt that it was located too distant from other centres for regular competition football.  The vote was 9 all with the president casting his vote against. However some competition football looked liked an inevitability in 1930.

There was renewed interest in Country Week as a stepping stone for players to represent the State as well as to strive for a place in the Australian team to travel to Britain.  The trial match process was rigorous and like no other year the Group 9 representatives were keenly anticipated from a most talented tool.  The final selection was: Bob Boyd (Temora), Reg Maker (Temora), ‘Bluey’ Keyes (Gundagai), ‘Snowy’ Marsh (Tumut), Len Cooper (Barmedman), Eric Weissel (Temora), George Rolfe (Young) (although George Purcell from Coota replaced him at the last minute), Jack Kingston (Cootamundra), Jack James (Cootamundra), ‘Bluey’ Forbutt (Tumut), Charlie Cornwall (Temora), Henry McGuire (Gundagai) and Gordon Hinton (Cootamundra).  The Group 9 team overwhelmed Group 8 by 37-10.  Southern Districts then defeated Far North Coast 28-5 but fell to St George 17-8 (for whom Gundagai native ‘Bluey’ Freestone scored two tries).  Weissel, Kingston and Charlie Cornwall were selected for Country.  Weissel and Kingston went to England with the Kangaroos, as did Group 9-bred players Bill Brogan, George Treweeke and Cec Fifield.

The Southern Districts team of 1929. Courtesy: The Wal Galvin collection

The Southern Districts team of 1929. Courtesy: The Wal Galvin collection

At a June meeting the competition versus cup issue resulted in another tied vote the president casting for the status quo, much to the indignation of absent Temora and Young representatives who understood that there was to be a specific meeting exclusively on this matter. The next month president Bill Flanagan resigned over the resultant discord.

Whereas it was expected that Fred Cahill of Young would challenge for the position he too resigned basically over the dominance of Cootamundra within Group 9 and Coota’s abuse of its powers in a protest regarding well-travelled professional footballer ‘Chips’ Phillips. The Phillips case produced probably the first instance of a rising against the Maher Cup as a corrupting influence.  As the Junee Southern Cross editorialised “It is quite obvious that in order to retain this trophy, there are certain clubs in the group, the members of which will descend to anything to retain it.”  The Sydney Sportsman declared Cootamundra’s disregard for the rules as ‘bushranging‘.

Bill 'Chips' Phillips second from left in the 1930 Cootamundra team

Bill ‘Chips’ Phillips second from left in the 1930 Cootamundra team

In August the NSW Rugby League banned Phillips for 12 months and Cootamundra were disqualified in all matches they had played him.  As well they were ordered to forfeit any cups currently held for which Phillips had represented them.  A month of further wrangling followed with the southwest fans starved of their Maher Cup diet. There was general uproar in Cootamundra against the NSWRL – even a threat to return to playing Rugby Union, as well as some sympathy from many Group 9 teams and officials over the City’s meddling.  At a fiery Group 9 meeting on 16 August Fred Cahill of Young re-emerged. He read the anti-Coota, anti-Sydney mood, and masterfully gained support of most Group 9 representatives. The Cootamundra based president, secretary and treasurer all resigned. Cahill was elected president with Gundagai securing the secretarial position.  He took it upon Group 9 to appeal the severity of the Phillips ruling and sorted the complexity of current Maher Cup protests where three clubs – Cootamundra, Junee and Barmedman – were all claiming to be the rightful holders…and the hope of a competition in 1930 was revived.

Grafton Daily Examiner 5 September 1929

Grafton Daily Examiner 5 September 1929

When finally in September the Maher Cup resumed with Junee v Cootamundra before 4,000 spectators the feelings were so intense that a police inspector addressed the players prior to the match, concerned as much with potential violence off the field as on.  As the defeated Cootamundra brigade were heading home from Junee station they were pelted with eggs and gravel.

With Group 9 entering the Depression decade Temora representative Mr Carr could state without irony that the ‘Maher Cup was a business matter, not a sporting matter’.  The Young versus Cootamundra hostility was now welded on, and the Cootamundra club had alienated almost all the other teams by both their enviable success and abrogation of the principles of fair play.  However there was near unity in Group 9 on one thing – that NSW Rugby League was being run by city interests and had little understanding of the peculiarly intense football world of the southwest.

A newspaper report from 1929

A newspaper report from 1929

In the last Maher Cup of the decade the tiny wheat lumper’s village of Barmedman demolished once almighty Cootamundra before a crowd some six times the usual population, on a ground described by sophisticates used to the SCG and the manicured Fisher Park as a ‘ploughed paddock infested by rabbits‘.  In an ‘up yours’ celebration of its rusticity Barmedman released a colony of the furry creatures to scatter in all directions at the start of the match.

Cootamundra was to lose its dominance for almost twenty years, but it wasn’t until 1933 that Maher Cup mania had subsided sufficiently for a proper Group 9 competition to be established.

Group 9 History: 1928

1928 was a great year for Group 9.  The excitement around the Maher Cup now seemed more like a frenzy.  Rugby League matches were the talk of the towns, the villages and farmer’s rural pubs. At the start of the season the town of Cootamundra received a wonderful bonus, it’s second visit from an English tourist team.  Group 9 drew 14-14 with this team: Bill ‘Chips’ Phillips (Coota), Reg Maker (Temora), Laurie Smith (Barmedman), Sid Hall (Young), Tom English (Wagga), Eric Weissel (Temora – captain), Norm ‘Latchem’ Robinson (Coota), Neville Beegling (Tumut), Leo Curran (Temora), Gordon ‘Norker’ Torpy (Coota), Bill Brogan (Wyalong), Gordon Hinton (Coota) and Jack Kingston (Coota). The crowd of 7,000 well exceeded Coota’s regular population.

England v South-West District (Group IX) 30 may 1928

England v South-West District (Group IX) 30 May 1928

 

Bill Flanagan of Cootamundra replaced Tom O’Farrell as president at the Group 9 AGM. The focus was on the Group taking a bigger role in the management of challenge cups and particularly in settling the growing number of disputes.  As the game was becoming semi-professional and the economic benefits to local businesses of a successful cup run substantial, so was the importance of winning, by hook or by crook.

A widespread matter of concern was Cootamundra’s rewriting of the Maher Cup rules when they won the cup outright at the end of 1923. In particular the 10 mile residency limit.  Gundagai were aggrieved that Gerry Crowe of Gobarralong was excluded from their team due to his farm’s distance from the town, although there was clearly no town closer. So this season a process to grant such players a special permit was implemented.  However the distance clause would still cause serious friction later in the year and beyond.  As well Cootamundra reserved the right to play the first and last challenges in any year where they had lost the Cup; were in charge of settling Cup disputes – even when they were an involved party; and were generally felt to dominate the affairs of Group 9 with the president, secretary and treasurer all being drawn from that town.

The ultra competitive nature of Group 9 was reflected in a still growing expenditure on captain-coaches.  Cootamundra recruited Norm ‘Latchem’ Robinson from Balmain at £12, Gundagai still had ‘Chook’ Fraser and Temora Eric Weissel, Bill Brogan coached Wyalong, Keith Ellis from Newtown made £8 per week plus wages from a railway job at Junee, Young had Reg McEnroe of Newtown for £7 plus board, Harry Caples from Easts made Wagga competitive for £19 a week, and Tumut engaged international ‘Snowy’ Marsh for a bargain at £7.

In April in preparation for Country Week Group 9 defeated Group 8 by 14-2. The team was: Frank Blundell (Gundagai), Reg Maker, (Temora), Phil Freestone (Gundagai), George Purcell (Cootamundra), Jim Lawrence (Barmedman), Eric Weissel (Temora, captain), Ernie Turner (Junee), Jack Kingston (Cootamundra), Vince Kane (Junee), Gordon Hinton (Cootamundra), Jim Keen (West Wyalong), Eddie Locke (Wagga) and Rus Hutchison (Wagga).  Those in italics also went on to represent Southern Districts.

The format of Country Week was changed so that each district played a Sydney side.  Southern met Eastern Suburbs and were beaten 20-12. However a Group 9 selection returned in July to again play the Sydney competition leaders and won 23-19.  The Country team beat the City 35-24. Three Group 9 players: Weissel, Kingston and Gundagai’s ‘Bluey’ Freestone were selected to play for Australia.

The Australian team that defeated England with Cootamundra locals Eric Weissel and Jack Kingston, plus the Grahamstown lad who wandered off to South Sydney - George Treweek/e

The Australian team that defeated England with Cootamundra locals Eric Weissel and Jack Kingston, plus the Grahamstown lad who wandered off to South Sydney – George Treweek/e

 

Temora took up the idea earlier championed by Fred Cahill of Young, to run a points table style competition among Group 9 teams.  It was again deferred.

The Maher Cup draw was always a matter of chance and in 1928 three top Group 9 teams, Temora, Young and Tumut were unsuccessful in getting a challenge slot, while Cowra, Grenfell and Canowindra from Group 11 did, the latter trouncing Cootamundra – only to be thwarted by the dubious application of the ’10 mile rule’.   The hypocracy was apparent to everyone.  While a paid player who would only remain in Cootamundra for the football season was considered a resident, a hard-working farmer struggling on a soldier-settlement block 11 miles from the nearest town was not.

The call was to limit the Maher Cup to only Group 9 teams rather than ‘any side based within 100 miles of Cootamundra’.

 

Group 9 History: 1927

youngjubileeshow1921The first problem faced was how to deal with clashes with the local agricultural shows which so infuriated Junee the year before.  Most of the Shows were held in September, so the Southern and Western P.A. Show society requested that the football competitions be completed by August. Given that the Maher Cup was such a money spinner, and its rules stipulated a 1 June to 30 September season, while in wheat belt towns like Barmedman, Wyalong and Temora many of the players were busy sowing grain into May, this was never likely to be put into practice.   And it never was.

The second annual South Western Rugby League (Group 9) meeting was held at Cootamundra in March.  Tom O’Farrell was re-elected president and Glen Evans of Cootamundra replaced Fred Cahill.  It was decided to commence the season earlier in order to have trial matches to select the Country Week representative team, as well as to try to finish up before the heart of the Show season. However it was the now usual Maher Cup matters such as the 10 mile rule, Sydney referees and paid coaches that continued to dominate discussion.

The following Group 9 players were selected in the Southern Districts team: Aub Harris (Cootamundra), George Purcell (Cootamundra), Jim Lawrence (Barmedman), Ernie ‘Tiger’ Turner (Junee), Gordon Hinton (Cootamundra), Jack Kingston (Cootamundra), Dadie Quinlan (Cootamundra)  and Rus Hutchinson (Wagga).  Eric Weissel had moved to Temora and in order to protect its treasured asset it was decided not to make its players available for Country Week. Southern beat South Coast 11-5 but lost 5-0 to Western Districts.

The crack Temora team collected various challenge cups but lost their only Maher Cup challenge in July before a record Cootamundra crowd, in a year of record crowds as Cup fever reached renewed intensity. Young under Teddy Taplin, and Gundagai led by legendary international Charles ‘Chook’ Fraser, both wrested the Maher Cup and had decent runs. The Cootamundra team, which had dominated the Maher Cup since the end of 1922 was beginning to unravel without Weissel. Phil Regan in his sixth year coaching the blue and whites resigned in August leaving a quarrelsome and divided bunch.