IT’S the Country Rugby League’s version of scaling Mount Everest.
Awarded every year since 1937, the history-rich Clayton Cup is a little known piece of silverware that has the names of legendary bush footy teams from Tweed Heads to Bega and from Bourke to Albion Park etched on its near timeless frame.
And this year marks a special memento for two of its winners.
Today in Oberon, the Clayton Cup-winning side of 1964 will celebrate 50 years since their dominant Group 10 premiership victory with a reunion at the Oberon Sportsground during the Tigers’ round 14 clash with Bathurst St Pat’s.
This year, too, also marks 60 years since Orange CYMS won the Clayton Cup after a similarly emphatic 1954 Group 10 season.
Both were remarkable campaigns completed by champion teams.
To put the feats into perspective: in 77 seasons of the Clayton Cup, just three Group 10 clubs have won the coveted trophy and it hasn’t been done by a Group 10 club in half a century.
The 1950 Bathurst Railway outfit was the first.
Part of the 1954 CYMS team, Vic Byrne said the history behind the Clayton Cup made the feat extra special.
“The big thing about it is, back then, you were virtually crowned country champions in rugby league. You had to be premiers of your first division competition,” Byrne said.
“For the club at the time, it was a big thing.
“There’s a lot of history behind the Cup and to be part of it is special.”
Donated by Reub Clayton to help foster the game in rural NSW, the Clayton Cup has been awarded to the best team each year in the CRL since 1937.
Tweed Heads Seagulls have won the cup three times (1963, 1983, 1989), as have Cobar, back-to-back in 1971 and 1972 as part of Group 15 before claiming it again in 1998 as part of Group 11.
Four clubs have won it twice: Young (1953, 1955), Tumbarumba (1985, 1986), Forster-Tuncurry (1994, 1995) and Grafton Shosts (2010, 2011).
A side that included two NSW representatives, the 1964 Oberon team to win the Cup conceded just six tries on its way to the Group 10 premiership.
It was a side that also enjoyed the services of Don Elwin, a goal kicking sensation who once kicked a penalty from 65 metres out.
The 1954 CYMS team had obvious class, but it was its ties to Orange that made it special.
“We had Mick Newland as our coach back in those days, we had a lot of boys who had played together throughout the 50s,” Byrne recalls.
“And we trained in the snow or sunshine ... we had to play in it so we bloody well had to train in it as well.”
The former Group 10 president labelled the Bathurst Railway, the only other Group 10 team to claim the Clayton Cup, as “another outstanding side”.
The Wauchope Blues, from Group 3, are the current holders of the Clayton Cup.