The Atkinson-Price (Joadja) Challenge Cup – The Mystery
Whilst we know the oldest continually played for silverware in Australian soccer football is our Challenge Shield from 1901, however Australia’s oldest known soccer football trophy in existence is possibly the little-known Atkinson Price Challenge Cup from 1887!
This beautiful piece of silverware is believed to be founded and resided in the now mining ghost town of Joadja Creek located in the Southern Highlands. Little is known about the Cup but it is possible that it was donated by Richard Atkinson Price, a NSW businessmen with an interest in Rugby Union and later a protectionist politician.
During the 1880’s Joadja Creek was a thriving Scottish community mining coal and shale to produce oil and kerosene. As with other Scottish communities such as Granville, Balmain and Pyrmont, the lads started playing soccer football in their isolated valley community.
Upon learning of the foundation of the Southern British Football Association, the Joadja Creek community would later recruit their best players to form a representative team calling themselves Southern Cross Football Club. They would then challenge the best of the NSW competition and a team of players made up from a number of Sydney based teams was put together and a match was arranged on Joadja’s home turf and it is possible that they played for the honour of winning the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup. Interestingly no Granville Football Club players were selected in this mixed Sydney team despite being undefeated for 2 years.
On the Queen’s Birthday long weekend of 21 May 1887, the Sydney team endured 5 hours and 100 miles of rail and horse and carriage travelling before playing their much anticipated match. Fatigued, they were not in the same condition as the local team and Joadja Creek would go on to win a well spirited game 2-0. It is worth noting that the game was only for one hour due to failing light as the long travel meant the game started late. The Joadja Creek lads then entertained the Sydney lads and shared an ale with the visitors at the Joadja Hotel.
The following year the powerful Granville Football Club team would travel to the Southern Highlands and play against Joadja Creek’s Southern Cross Football Club. As with the year before, this match was also played on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend of 24 May 1888 and the home team won again, this time with a score line of 3-1. Granville however would win the return match 2 months later on 28 July 1888 at Granville 1-0. The following year on 24 August 1889, Joadja Creek playing at home would triumph over Granville Football Club 5-2.
Throughout the 1890’s there is no accurate record of any other matches being played between the 2 clubs and soon after the turn of the century, the thriving Joadja Creek community would become a distant memory.
Sadly the introduction of the electric street light and market forces meant that the need for shale oil and kerosene diminished rapidly. Consequently the mining business slowed considerably and the community moved afar in search of employment leaving the village of Joadja Creek to become a ghost town, a victim of progress.
So what happened to the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup?
Sadly, little else is known of Joadja Creek football. Then in 1993, local historian Leonie Knapman received a telephone call from a friend that she might be very interested in a “beautiful silver trophy” for sale in a Berry second hand store that they acquired from an estate sale from a gentlemen from Joadja. She promptly called the store to tell them she was on her way and not to sell the Cup, she was buying it!
Upon her arrival at the store she could hardly believe her eyes. She believed and assumed this is a Cup that the lads were playing for back in the 1880’s and she wanted it, to protect it and preserve it – she was amazed it was not lost or had been destroyed over time. Whilst she knew its importance to her local community she didn’t fully appreciate its importance to Australian Soccer football but after a little research it didn’t take long for that to change.
After a number of years in Leonie’s possession and contemplating what to do with the Cup, she befittingly decided to donate it to the Scottish Arm Tavern at East Bowral where it is on permanent display for all soccer football lovers to enjoy.
In 2009 the locals recognising the Cups’ importance decided to promote a re-enactment of a game played in full 1880’s uniforms, as seen on the figurine on top of the Cup. It was novel and successful with plans to make this an annual event but it never eventuated.
Move forward to November 2018.
Whilst attending the Football NSW Associations Annual Dinner Granville Association Deputy Chairman Noel Dona delivered an inspirational presentation and tribute to Private John William Cottam and the Cottam Cup of 1907. In attendance was the Danny Josipovic, Chairman of the Highlands Soccer Association.
The following week Danny contacted Noel to advise “I think I know a Cup that’s older than your Cottam Cup” and referred him to a you tube link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpaS8ncYm9A
Inspired and motivated by this history, Noel suggested to Danny that the significance and the importance of the Cup be reactivated and brought back to life with the Premier League Champions of each Association playing for the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup every year commencing 2019.
Danny loved the idea and so did his Board. Equally so did the Granville Association Board noting that the Granville Association Premier League teams are now competing for the oldest continuously played for soccer football silverware in Australia – the Challenge Shield of 1901 – and the oldest known soccer football silverware in Australia – the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup of 1887.
And now the mystery and controversy of this Cup.
Though the Cup was said to be in the possession of a gentlemen from Joadja, respected soccer historian Dr Philip Mosley says it is possible but is not yet convinced that the Joadja Creek lads actually played for this Cup back in the 1880’s. He is desperately trying to find evidence, assuming it even exists, to support the fact that this Cup was in fact the prize the teams were playing for, but to date he has not been able to make that connection. Furthermore, despite the figurine atop the Cup is clearly that of a soccer footballer with a round football, there is a suggestion that the Cup may not have been for the round ball soccer game at all, but possibly for the Rugby code. Confused? There is evidence that confirms there was an Atkinson Price Challenge Cup at this same time for the Sydney Rugby competition. So were there two Atkinson Price Challenge Cups?
Notwithstanding this mystery, the two Associations have still decided to play for this beautiful and very old silverware.
Known as Australia’s oldest football silverware, the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup was formed way back in 1887 and was played between Highlands and Granville Associations.
After the Cup went missing for more than a century, the two associations recently agreed to revive the contest and honoured the Scottish heritage of the original Granville FC and Joadja Creek teams which also included a bag piper leading both teams out pre kick-off.
12:30 AAW: Moss Vale SC v Rydalmere Lions FC
2:30 Atkinson-Price Challenge Cup: AAM Marulan FC v Auburn FC