Bragging Rights

Moonbi’s Early Cricketing Triumph

On Saturday the 15th of April 1905, the Sawers Shield finally found its home in Moonbi after six years of stiff competition.

A yearly competition between the affiliated clubs of the Tamworth Cricket Union, it would only be awarded to the team that could win twice in succession or three times in all. Moonbi accomplished both. Winning in 1900, 1904, and 1905, they would have bragging rights for decades to come.

Hugh Flanagan (1872-1932) was a part of this winning side. One of the earliest cricketing successes from the area, he had previously been invited to join the Australian side on a tour of South Africa. However, his opportunity to compete in this tour was cut short when his pregnant wife became ill, resulting in the tragic loss of their baby.

One can imagine then, that the night spent at the pub where this Shield was awarded was a proud one. A win made especially sweet through beating Tamworth who, at the time, were considered to take their cricket very seriously. An attitude far removed from Tamworth’s first recorded cricket match in 1859 which began as a jovial challenge from a team of local single men to the married men of the town. (The singles won.)

In the decades following, the trophy found itself proudly displayed on the mantle of Kootingal Pub (once a part of Moonbi). Some new owners and a remodeling later, the trophy found its way to the cellar where it sat collecting dust for many years. When someone finally recovered the shield, it seemed ‘it was always to have gone in the museum.’

Unbeknownst to Flanagan, his legacy would go on to be celebrated by Moonbi Museum. Now considered a local legend, he is credited with helping create a town culture which has since created a number of professional players, namely Leonie Coleman and Josh Hazlewood.