Muswellbrook High School

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School History

Muswellbrook High School historical articles.

The Team of 1953

MHS 1953 University Shield Team - some reflections

In 1952 the Muswellbrook Intermediate High School became Muswellbrook High School. As a newly established school, MHS was one of the smallest in NSW. In 1953 this fledgling high school took on the might of the larger and more established schools in the prestigious NSWCHS University Shield Rugby League Championship and emerged victors. This sporting victory along with excellent academic results achieved by the players and their classmates (girls and boys) laid a strong foundation for tradition on which MHS could, and has built. The tradition that MHS could compete at the highest level in all fields of educational endeavour has endured since those early days.

The 1953 1st XIII exhibited qualities which endeared it, not only to the school, but also to the town of Muswellbrook. Permeating the team was a strong bond and spirit of mateship which has endured down through the years. The players had a great pride and affection for their school and a deep respect for their teachers. While football skill was important to the winning of the University Shield no one could deny that these additional qualities inspired the team to achieve.

The team was fortunate to have a coach like Mr Barry (Bazza) Jory. Barry was an excellent Science/Agriculture teacher, an outstanding rugby league coach, an outstanding footballer himself but most importantly he was a great bloke. Barry's philosophy was that a champion team will always beat a team of champions. Underpinning this belief was the fitness and discipline (on and off the field) that he demanded from his team. While he concentrated on team performance he had the canny ability to relate to each individual and make him feel an important part of the team. Before each game, while calm, he was always pensive, but after the game his jubilation and excitement were very evident as he shared those feelings with the team.

Training was a serious and compulsory component of the season. Training, which commenced early in the year was conducted twice a week after school on the excavated land area in the north of the school playground. This space could not be called an oval/field because it was forever grassless—early in the season it would be dusty and in winter either rock hard or a quagmire. Training took place in an east-west direction to maximize the space of the training area. In a week when there was no match there was always a third training session on Wednesday sport afternoon. This session took place on the 1953 Showground which was also the local football ground. This oval with a grass covering and football field markings was a much more pleasant training venue. Barry's training sessions had two main purposes—one was fitness while the other was the game plan he wanted  drilled into the team. Hindsight indicates he succeeded in both.

The game plan drilled into the team was a simple one for schoolboy football but one which had to be executed well if it was to achieve results. Fundamental to the plan was a rock solid defence to be maintained for the entirety of a match—a glance at results show very few points were scored against the MHS team. The pack of forwards, although not big, was strong and mobile and all members were excellent tacklers. It was the role of the forwards to control the ball and then send it to the backs as quickly and often as possible. The backs were always smaller than those in opposing teams but they were fast, excellent ball handlers and all capable of penetrating the opposition's defence. The game plan was simple, but maintained for the whole game played under the one yard , unlimited tackle and no replacement rules, was the key ingredient to the team's success.

Throughout the 1953 season there was a need to travel to many games. This need to travel often meant leaving Muswellbrook in the wee hours of the morning and this in turn led to practices which became part of a routine for team members. Travel commenced either by bus from Campbells' Corner or by train from the railway station. To arrive at the departure venue all players walked from their residential area of Muswellbrook. The path taken was always to a time schedule so that players met at a particular spot along the way. Failure to be at the spot meant someone had slept in so backtracking occurred to ensure everyone arrived in time to catch the bus or train.

Team members have never forgotten the trip to Farrer for the first University Shield match 1953. The train left Muswellbrook at 4.00am on a bitterly cold day. At Tamworth the team was picked up in a Farrer open back truck. With the team in the back of the truck, the truck drove along a bumpy road where the frost had tree branches drooping and hitting the Muswellbrook boys around the head. The team, frozen stiff, arrived at Farrer to see the field a sheet of white covered in frost and looking as if there had been a snow fall. If the truck ride was a Farrer tactic to upset the MHS team it misfired because after a tough first half the boys had thawed and won a thrilling game.

Towards the end of the 1953 season a cult was born—maybe because of the many cold early departures. Each member of the team wore a home-knitted beanie with pompoms. The home knitting meant a wide variation in fashion styles existed but the essential colours of blue and gold remained true.

Another feature of the 1953 team was the enthusiasm with which it sung the War Cry after each match. All 13 players would get into a circular huddle  and "dance" around singing (yelling?!) the war cry. So well known was the war cry that at reunions since 1953 the team members spontaneously burst into song at some time during the evening—never missing a word or a beat.

In August 1953 the MHS team travelled to Mudgee (mutual meeting venue) to play Bathurst in the final of the University Shield. The MHS team won 10-0. After a long and tiring bus trip the team arrived back late into the night at Campbells' Corner. Unbeknown to the team a large crowd had gathered and as the players alighted from the bus a roar of applause went up. The crowd of townsfolk had heard in advance of the victory and turned out to cheer and welcome home THEIR team and express their pride and excitement—the LEGEND and the FOLKLORE was born and from that moment indelibly written into the history of Muswellbrook and MHS.  It was an overwhelming feeling for the team.

Before the team had arrived home on the day of the victory local citizens had already commenced a collection to raise funds to present each team member with a beautiful blazer. The fund to purchase the blazers was very generously supported and at a civic reception at the Railway Institute, the Mayor Ald. G.H.S.Adams,  presented coach Barry Jory and his 16 man squad with a magnificent blazer with a pocket indicating the University Shield and Peel Carnival success. The reception, chaired by Mr. William(Bill) Foster (Headmaster), was attended by parents, teachers, local dignitaries and the blazer fund workers.

As the years have passed the squad has thinned but the bond is still strong and the players meet for reunions. The next reunion is planned for 2013—the 60th anniversary of the birth of the LEGEND. Although team members are now scattered Australia wide, there has never been a suggestion that a reunion be held anywhere but Muswellbrook—and never is a reunion held that team members don't visit their old school, Muswellbrook High, the school they loved as students and on which they still reflect with pride and great feeling.

More on the story of the 1953 1st XIII can be found in the 1953 MHS school magazine "Bimboorien" and the attached sheet provides a detailed statistical summary of the 1953 season. At the 2013 60th Anniversary Reunion it is hoped to present to the school an album of memorabilia to place in the MHS Archives. Already other tangible items have been presented to the school which will help keep the memory of the 1953 team alive. These are the "Extraordinary Achievement Award" Shield, a framed original blazer and a framed enlarged team photograph. These items are on display in the school foyer.

As for the players of the 1953 team, we have always felt blessed and special because of the affection and recognition shown us by our school and the citizens of Muswellbrook. We have always held a deep sense of pride that in the infancy of MHS we were able to contribute to a young school which would grow into the excellent educational institution it is today.

Memory Lane (DOC 28KB)

Keith Crossley

May 2011