You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

The 50-year reunion of the all-conquering Western Division Amco Cup team will be held in Dubbo this weekend.

It was the inaugural year of the 21-team, midweek Amco Cup competition in 1974 when Western Division, made up of players from 12 country towns (pictured above), came together and swept aside teams like the Auckland Falcons, Canterbury-Bankstown and Manly Warringah to beat Penrith (6-2) in the Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval.

Local historian Geoff Mann said there had been a changing demographic for the NSW western region as towns, which once thrived on coal mines, saw those utilities close and populations fluctuate.

“But this area – the Western region, now the Rams – now has record numbers of players and many say it’s because the girls and are now playing. That’s not true – we’re going gangbusters and it’s across the board,” Mann told

“The spirit is still there. When you think of a coal miner from Cobar or Lithgow, farmers from Orange or Cowra going up against the might of teams like Penrith and the Bulldogs who were full of internationals, you can see why Western Division has meant so much to the area.”

Western Division icon Ted Ellery. Photo: Courtesy Greg Riach
Western Division icon Ted Ellery. Photo: Courtesy Greg Riach

Surviving members of the 1974 Amco Cup team will have their 50th reunion dinner at the Dubbo RSL on Saturday 2 March.

Earlier that day players will travel by bus to Cale Oval, Narromine, as the Western Rams are playing Round One against the Northern Tigers in the NSWRL Men’s Country Championships (12.50pm), and both the SLE Andrew Johns Cup (10am) and SLE Laurie Daley Cup (11.20am).

“These blokes are close to 80 (years) and since the last reunion 10 years ago, we’ve lost a few more from that team,” Mann said.

“But that whole spirit of the green (jersey) is what drives them to go out and present jerseys to the young players on the day.

“We’ve had about nine pass away. And one of those was the face of that Amco Cup side, Ted Ellery, who was from Lithgow and worked in the mines … tough as.

“But the people still around include coach Johnny King, who is coming and was a St George legend, plus Paul Dowling the captain who scored all the points in the game, and Robbie Pilon who was the Man of the Match.

“Terry Fahey is also coming – the former ‘Redfern Express’ from Wellington - along with Geoff Lousick and Nelson Smith both from Wellington too, they’ll all be here.”

Fahey was Dally M Winger of the Year (1981) and is a True Blue alongside Barry Rushworth and coach King. Pilon and Greg Fearnley were NSW Country reps.

Among the Penrith side was former Australian coach Tim Sheens and the late Country Rugby League boss, Terry Quinn.

Greg Riach, author of the book ‘Rugby League History Western and Southern NSW 1920-1976’, recalls the key to the Grand Final win against the Panthers: “Western Division won the final against Penrith with a solid brick-wall defence that never offered the Panthers a single inch of territory.”

Five-eighth Dowling scored a try (worth three points at the time), kicked a penalty goal and a field goal to score all Western Division’s points. Second-rower Bruce Ward kicked a goal for the Panthers.

A crowd of more than 20,000 squeezed into Leichhardt Oval, while a million or more watched on television.

The Amco Cup had several name changes and ran from 1974 through to 1989.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Platinum Partner

Major Partners

View All Partners