The Astley Cup set to run this year but in Term 3

With COVID-19 disrupting sport around the world, three schools in western NSW are not letting a global pandemic get in their way, when it comes to their long-running event.

The Astley Cup is an inter-school competition, which has been running since 1923.

It is played between Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo High Schools and is the oldest of its kind in New South Wales.

In 1940 the Astley Cup was cancelled because of World War II.

But the competition resumed in 1941 thanks to the late Ainslie Small, who was the sportsmistress at Dubbo High for 17 years from 1939 to 1956.

“We needed to cling to stable things and traditions that were not swept away, in a world where so much was being destroyed,” she said before her death.

It is that sentiment the three schools are holding onto now, as much of the world remains at a standstill because of the coronavirus.

Astley Cup team

Astley Cup team

The Astley Cup contested between Denison College Bathurst High Campus, Dubbo College Senior Campus and Orange High (pictured)(Supplied: Dubbo Photo News)

The heads of all three campuses and sports departments met last week and agreed to keep the annual event in the calendar, albeit a little later than first planned.

School children in NSW are returning to face-to-face teaching one day a week, with the number of days children attend school expected to gradually ramp up over the coming weeks.

Usually played at the end of term two the Astley Cup has been rescheduled for late August and September, more than a month after community sport is set to resume.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said, “the Astley Cup had not been confirmed as proceeding in 2020, but organisers had tentatively booked venues to facilitate the cup if there is a change in health guidelines.”

Dubbo High School's 1946 rugby league team

Dubbo High School's 1946 rugby league team

Dubbo High School 1946 rugby league team(Supplied)

Playing on after war

When Wal Norman laced up his boots for Dubbo High School in 1946 it was the first time rugby league had been played in the Astley Cup.

“I’m the surviving member of that team,” he said.

World War II had ended the previous year, where 44 former Dubbo High School students had fought.

Two members of the school’s football team were killed in the war.

Team captain

Team captain

Wal Norman, 90, captained the 1946 rugby league team for Dubbo High School.(Supplied: Geoff Mann)

“We had a lot of students who left school when they shouldn’t have to go fight,” Wal Norman said. 

The 90 year old is pleased the completion will still be played this year.

“It’s a magnificent competition, probably unique in Australia, perhaps anywhere in the world,” he said.

“When I was in primary school at Dubbo Central, everyone’s aim was to play Astley Cup for Dubbo High School in whatever sport they could.”