Group 9 History: 1939

The Sullivan brothers of the Gundagai Independent continued their opposition to the Maher Cup which they declared ‘a disease from which germs infect football in this Group’.[1]  They found allies in their quest to strengthen the Group 9 Competition, when West Wyalong and Temora sought to delay the Cup until the Competition finals were completed, leaving time for only about six challenges. While the proposal was defeated, a team playing for the Maher Cup on Wednesday would now be required to field eight of that team in the Competition matches on the previous and following Sundays. This followed considerable resentment directed towards Young in 1938 for using the Competition to give its reserve team a workout; and basically help it select the best Maher Cup team.

Membership of various Groups was fluid. Group 11 wanted Grenfell and Cowra. Both resisted and they remained in Group 9. A proposed expansion of the Leeton-centred Group 17 to swallow up West Wyalong, Barmedman and Temora was ignored; while Tumut’s previous season’s practice of participating in the Group 13 competition as well as and the Maher Cup was (narrowly) approved after 3 ½ hours discussion.

Junee and Gundagai clubs were reformed and successfully sought to join Group 13 where the nearby Wagga teams were located. Neither sought to participate in the Maher Cup. The Cootamundra Pastime Club also reestablished a first grade Coota team.

Bob Aldridge of Temora, the Group 9 patron and ‘father of football’ in the area established a Group 9 Referees’ Association. Helped by the fallout over referee Murphy’s abandonment of the Cowra v Young donnybrook (as well as sheer economics), Maher Cup matches would no longer be handled by Sydney referees.

Harold Kaye of West Wyalong, who had been its highly praised treasurer for four years was elected president. F. McDonough of Temora was the new treasurer and T. Cusack of Young treasurer.[2] Group 9 decided to participate in Country Week after some years absence.

The Cup draw, now to be conducted a fortnight rather than a week before commencement, came out: Temora, Grenfell, Cowra, Cootamundra, Tumut, West Wyalong, Barmedman and Harden-Murrumburrah.

The age of imports was over; frugality and development of local talent was the rage – except at Grenfell. Completely bucking the trend the town’s businessmen continued their pre-occupation of building a team that would win the Maher Cup. The Green’s ‘alien army’ or ‘foreign legion’, failed in its battles against a better co-ordinated Young.

[1] Reprinted in Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative, 30 March 1939, p. 10. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161934773

[2] Cusack was the third member of the Young Witness staff to be secretary, after Fred Cahill (1932-1933) and Ray Walker (1937).

Group 9 History: 1938

The Maher Cup towns now had a radio station broadcasting a clear signal from Cowra to Wagga and from West Wyalong to Tumut. The opening of 2LF with a daytime ‘static free’ coverage of 100 miles, was celebrated by 900 revellers at Young on the 16th of February. Football would inevitably be in focus. Manager Rawdon Blandford, from New Zealand had represented Otago in Rugby, and the station’s announcer, Pat Barton, was a past boxer, sprinter and Rugby League player of note.

Junee newspaper proprieter Alf Bennett, Group 9 president from 1934-1937 had died. David Freer, a Temora store manager was appointed president. Secretary Ray Walker of Young had moved to Group 17 and was replaced by Ernie Gerstenberger of Young’s Great Eastern Hotel. Acclaimed accountant Harold Kaye of West Wyalong continued as treasurer.

For the first time the Maher Cup attendance fee was fixed: 1/6 for adults and 6d for children. This had been the conventional charge in recent years.

There was a great variety of action and inaction amongst the area’s football clubs. The power within Group 9 had moved to the northern towns. As a result Forbes requested unsuccessfully to join the Group. Grenfell’s hoteliers and café proprieters bankrolled an attempt to create a team that could defeat its neighbours, win the Maher Cup and bring in big gates. West Wyalong outbid Cowra for top coach Max Gray’s services.

In the south Tumut both challenged for the Maher Cup and played in the Group 13 competition (which extended south to Albury and east to Wagga) . South Gundagai also sought to create a separate team to play in Group 13, then agreed to a united Gundagai to play in the Group. The Gundagai players defeated heavily in early matches (through lack of fitness) lost interest, forfeited their Maher Cup challenge and the club folded.

Cootamundra’s Pastime Club formed again full of enthusiasm, but were denied permission to train at Fisher Park, leading to a repeat of 1936, where the town failed to field a first grade team. Cootamundra’s right to the first and last Maher Cup challenge, established in 1924, was finally rescinded.

Junee again failed put a team together.

Another attempt to establish a regular Group 9 home and away competition was initiated. This time it was successful, it would become a permanent feature, although the Maher Cup still remained the ‘Holy Grail’. Cups would be played Wednesdays, the competition matches on Sundays. West Wyalong defeated Temora (who rested players for an impending Maher Cup match) in a muddy final, before a small crowd, for the Group 9 premiership.

Young won a record 15 Maher Cup matches in a year, including one at Cowra where the Sydney referee walked off the ground seven minutes before full time stating that he refused to referee a fight. Young’s three K’s were the stars of the season: coach, captain and goal-kicker Bill Kinnane; half-back Bill Kearney and five-eighth schoolteacher Kevin Dillon.

The crowds came back and the football doldrums of the Depression years were over (except in Cootamundra, Gundagai and Junee).