It was a time of three-point tries, unlimited tackles, now-extinct Lithgow clubs winning premierships and an infamous attack on a grand final referee.
But there was no doubt that the 1950s belonged to Orange CYMS, who won five premierships and made another three deciders. Their crowning achievement came in 1954, when the team from the colour city went through the entire Group 10 campaign undefeated after downing Lithgow Small Arms Factory 7−2 in the grand final. With that premiership success came a prestigious honour: the Clayton Cup, awarded to the best overall record from all clubs across Country Rugby League during the season. Throughout the entire 10 years, CYMS missed the grand final just twice - in 1955 and 1957.
1950: Bathurst Railway 9−8 over Orange CYMS
While Orange CYMS proved to be the most successful side in the 1950s, it was Bathurst Railway who claimed the first premiership of the decade in a grand final that featured some infamous post-match controversy.
Two supporters from Orange and a Portland man attacked match referee J. Cheedle, of Lithgow, accusing the match official of being "one-sided".
In terms of the match, it was a close affair, with Railway pulling off a remarkable comeback to win.
Railway started the scoring after 15 minutes of play, a penalty goal from J. Coleman putting first points on the board at the Bathurst Sports Ground.
But CYMS didn't trail for long and on the 25th minute mark, the green and golds scored a try through F. McGee, who had a clear run to the line.
The try was converted by CYMS captain John Cudmore, who would later be inducted into the club's Team of the Century in 2009 at fullback.
And just before half-time, McGee found space again to score his second of the match and give CYMS a strong 8−2 lead at the break.
Railway rallied in the second half to claim a 9−8 victory, the Bathurst club hoisting the Western Challenge Cup, much to the delight of captain Snow Garlick, who was carried from the field to the presentation and then to the dressing room after receiving the cup.
The game was watched by an estimated 4000 fans, bringing in a total of £289/-/6 in gate receivings.
A special train from Orange carried 400 people to Bathurst for the match and several hundred others made the trip by car.
Bathurst Railway also claimed the iconic Clayton Cup after having the best record in Country Rugby League for the year.
1951: Lithgow East Diggers 17−4 over Orange CYMS
They may no longer exist, but Lithgow East Diggers left their mark on Group 10 Rugby League in 1951 when they won their sole premiership against Orange CYMS.
The Lithgow Mercury's match report from September 10, 1951, described the game as "fast and open from the beginning to the finish". Below is a section of the match report:
"Both teams played good football, but the Lithgow side shaded Orange in some departments. Orange's back-line did not really get going, and, when they did, bad handling at the last moment spoilt their moves. They played most of the game with star player Bacigalupo useless as a result of an injury received last week.
"Fullback Hennessey spent the latter part of the game on the sideline, as a result of injuries received to the leg.
"For Lithgow, the captain, L. [Les] Sheehan, played an outstanding game as did their first try scorer, K. [Keith] King. Fullback J. Bailey was always keen and received the support of his team on all occasions."
Keith King, T. Law and Les Watson all bagged tries for the Lithgow side, while Jimmy Welsh booted four goals.
1952: Orange CYMS 14−2 over Bathurst Charlestons
After two years of grand final heartbreak, Orange CYMS broke through for their maiden premiership against Bathurst Charlestons. What was even sweeter for the green and golds was they did it in front of their home fans at Wade Park.
In a match report from the Central Western Daily on September 8, 1952, Charlestons skipper Oriel Kennerson said CYMS were too strong.
"On today's play, CYMS were much too good for us. They thoroughly deserved the win - and what a mighty team they are," he said.
John Cudmore opened the scoring for CYMS with a spectacular field goal from almost halfway and, shortly after, kicked a penalty goal to give his side a 4−0 lead.
But Charlestons responded with a goal of their own, with Kennerson scoring the last points of the half to give CYMS a narrow 4−2 lead at the break.
Cudmore continued his scoring shortly after play resumed and after some clever manoeuvring, CYMS scored the first try of the match in the corner through A. Kelly before R. Mitchell added a second for the hosts.
A total of £395 was received in gate takings.
1953: Orange CYMS 9−8 over Bathurst St Pat's
In what the Central Western Daily described as one of the most exciting Group 10 deciders at the time, Orange CYMS downed St Pat's in a cracking game at the Bathurst Sports Ground in front of a bumper 7000-strong crowd that paid £612.
The game was hard and fast for the full 80 minutes. St Pat's enjoyed territorial advantage for almost the entire game, but it was Tony Kelly, of CYMS, who hurt the home side.
Kelly rushed down the sideline in the second half and gathered a loose ball and it seemed from that play that St Pat's lost a great deal of their momentum.
St Pat's established a 4−0 lead at half-time, but CYMS took the lead within 60 seconds of the restart when Kelly crashed over and Hennessy added the conversion to give the Orange club a 5−4 lead.
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CYMS went further ahead when Tommy Hagar landed a field goal from distance, but a penalty goal from St Pat's kept them one point behind at 7−6.
Soon after, St Pat's goal kicker Freeberry landed another penalty to give the Bathurst team the lead.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, CYMS were awarded a penalty 10 metres into the St Pat's half and up stepped Hennessy to kick the last score of the game, the ball hitting the upright but bouncing over.
It delivered a second consecutive premiership for the team from the colour city.
1954: Orange CYMS 7−2 over Lithgow Small Arms Factory
With a team featuring former Lithgow East Diggers players, Lithgow Small Arms Factory went into the 1954 Group 10 decider looking to deny CYMS a third consecutive premiership.
However, it wasn't to be.
Watched by 5039 spectators at the Bathurst Sports Ground, CYMS led all the way in the decider,
A match report in the Central Western Daily on September 15, 1954 described an exciting game.
"Although the Orange team led all the way, the score was close enough to keep the big crowd on its feet for most of the 80 minutes.
"Factory won the scrums by a majority of two to one. But the Orange forwards played brilliantly in the open, and in the rucks often took the ball from their opponents.
"They got enough of the ball to keep CYMS continually in Factory territory and this is in the end gave CYMS their superiority.
"Factory received a big majority of the penalties, referee E. McAlpine awarding them 22 to 12 for CYMS.
"The match opened at a fast rate and with referee McAlpine keeping the play moving, it was hard for the game to lag. CYMS went to the attack from the start and kept the pressure on Factory. The Lithgow team defended very determinedly and held CYMS to the 25-yard line for most of the time.
"The passing was good and the handling excellent with Factory getting few opportunities of carrying the play to their opponents' half. Occasionally they got a break from loose play in a ruck and carried the game back with good passing runs."
ORANGE CYMS 7 (Kelly tries; Hennessey 2 goals) defeated LITHGOW EAST DIGGERS 2 (Kirkland goal)
1955: Orange Emmco 13−10 over Cowra Magpies
When Orange Emmco (Orange Hawks is the club's current incarnation) and Cowra Magpies ran onto the Bathurst Sports Ground on September 7, 1955, one thing was for sure - Group 10 would have a new premier.
A crowd of 6000 who paid, at the time, a record £680/11/3, saw a match described as a thriller, with all the drama coming in the last 20 minutes.
Cowra opened the score through G. Rintoul, after he passed several players, side-stepped another and scored in a favourable position to allow R. Boardman to convert easily, giving the Magpies a 5−0 lead.
Emmco fought hard to wrestle the lead from Cowra, but by the 30-minute mark, the Orange-based side was down 7−0 when Boardman slotted a penalty goal.
Emmco frequently took the play to Cowra's line but were unable to stop the defenders carrying the ball forward. Often fine individual runs by Boardman, Burns and Lawrence became a threat for the Orange side.
It wasn't until a minute before half-time that Emmco was able to score. A fine kick from well out on the 25-yard line gave Emmco two points and took R. Thompson's total points for the season to over 200.
The second half commenced with Emmco launching a sustained attack on the Cowra line and they battled for five minutes until at last Pat Weldon barged his way over to bring Emmco closer. Thompson missed the conversion and Cowra led 7−5.
Cowra scored again to give the Magpies a 10−5 lead, before two late tries from Emmco sealed the Orange club's maiden premiership.
1956: Lithgow Small Arms Factory 10−4 over Orange CYMS
Lithgow Small Arms Factory left their mark on Group 10 when they won their one and only premiership in 1956, the victory at the Bathurst Sports Ground denying Orange CYMS a fourth title in five years.
The game was rugged and evenly contested, although the wet ground conditions were against fast, open rugby league.
CYMS led 4−2 at half-time, but Factory came out in the second half and showed the form that had taken them to the minor premiership.
In the greasy conditions, the Factory backs threw the ball around in dry weather fashion and their two tries were the result of brilliant backline moves.
Referee Eric McIlhatton gave a good display and should have pleased both teams and spectators alike.
LITHGOW SMALL ARMS FACTORY 10 (King, Russell tries; Russell goal, Kirklan field goal) defeated CYMS (Grannall 2 goals)
1957: Bathurst Railway 27−14 over Lithgow Workies
Bathurst Railway staged a second half rally to down Workmen's Club in the Group 10 grand final at Lithgow.
It was Railway's first premiership since their 1950 success over Orange CYMS, in front of a crowd of an estimated 5000.
It was Workies' first grand final and would begin a run of a few rough decades where they featured in 11 grand finals in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but managed just the one premiership, in 1960, against a soon-to-be champion Oberon Tigers side.
1958: Orange CYMS 17−6 over Oberon Tigers
Orange CYMS won a hard-fought grand final against Oberon 17−6 after leading 6−2 at half-time.
Oberon chased the ball throughout the 80 minutes as it was usually being held by a member of the dominant CYMS backline.
The Orange team won the majority of the ball both from scrums and loose rucks and in the second half penetrated Oberon's defence to score three tries, which gave them the match and the grand final win.
Oberon began well, but as the game wore on their attack became more ragged and, whenever they managed to gain possession, they were more content to stand and pass the ball than to run.
CYMS won the scrums 23-15, but referee Eric McIlhatton, of Cowra, awarded Oberon 20 penalties to CYMS' five.
CYMS' first score came two minutes after the start of the match when Grannall landed his first goal and he landed two more before Oberon's Elwyn kicked a goal 10 minutes from half-time.
CYMS attacked strongly from the kick-off in the second half and their efforts began to show on the tired Oberon team.
The first try came when Hunt and Grannall combined to send Tom Commins in for CYMS' first try of the match 10 minutes after the start of the second half, putting CYMS up 9−4.
Elwyn landed another goal for Oberon to reduce the deficit to 9−6, however, D. Hyland scored a good try 15 minutes from full time before Lloyd Davidson's try sealed a 17−6 win for CYMS.
ORANGE CYMS 17 (Commins, Hyland, Davidson tries; Grannall 4 goals) defeated OBERON TIGERS 6 (Elwyn 3 goals)
1959: ORANGE CYMS 5−4 over Lithgow Workies
Tom Commins scored a try for the second consecutive Group 10 grand final as Orange CYMS came from behind to claim a second consecutive title and their fifth of the decade.
Lithgow Workies held a slim 4−2 lead at the Bathurst Sports Ground, two goals from G. McMillan cancelling out the one from J. Grannall.
The score remained unchanged until 12 minutes to go, when the ball was played brilliantly to CYMS halfback Carl Fahy. In the shocking conditions, he kicked the ball high over the Workies' backs and the ball stopped dead in a pool of water near the Lithgow goal line.
Tom Commins raced through as the ball floated on the water, kicked the ball, picked it up and slashed over for the only try of the match.
Spectators close to the incident claimed that the ball had gone out, but linesman Keith Lyons did not raise his flag and ruled the ball was still in play.
Rain fell throughout the game, turning the Bathurst Sports Ground surface into a quagmire.
It was impossible to distinguish any player in the game. The drenched spectators paid £340 at the gate.
ORANGE CYMS 5 (Commins try; Grannal goal) defeated LITHGOW WORKIES 4 (McMillan 2 goals)
The 1950s grand final results in summary:
- 1950: Bathurst Railway 9−8 Orange CYMS
- 1951: Lithgow East Diggers 17−4 Orange CYMS
- 1952: Orange CYMS 14−2 Bathurst Charlestons
- 1953: Orange CYMS 9−8 Bathurst St Pat's
- 1954: Orange CYMS 7−2 Lithgow Small Arms Factory
- 1955: Orange Emmco 13−10 Cowra Magpies
- 1956: Lithgow Small Arms Factory 10−4 Orange CYMS
- 1957: Bathurst Railway 27−14 Lithgow Workies
- 1958: Orange CYMS 17−6 Oberon Tigers
- 1959: Orange CYMS 5−4 Lithgow Workies
In the lead-up to the first full round of 2019 Group 10 Rugby League action on April 14, the Western Advocate will be looking back at the classic and iconic rugby league grand finals in the region.
If you have any old team photos, hard copy match reports or any other old Group 10 memorabilia, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.