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.

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