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 the little-known Atkinson Price Challenge Cup from 1887!
This beautiful piece of silverware was 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 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 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 team of the NSW competition, the powerful and then undefeated Granville Football Club, to a match on their home turf and for the honour of winning the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup.
On the Queen’s Birthday long weekend of 21 May 1887, the Granville 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. Joadja Creek recognising the excellent style of the Granville team then entertained and shared an ale with the visitors at the Joadja Hotel.
Over the next 2 years the 2 clubs would meet on 3 more occasions. Again on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend of 24 May 1888, the home side Joadja Creek won 3-1. Granville would win the return match on 28 July 1888 at Granville 1-0. On 24 August 1889 Joadja Creek playing at home would triumph 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.
Little is known about what happened to the Cup and it was feared lost or destroyed, until 1993. For more than a century local historian Leonie Knapman had resigned herself to never seeing the Atkinson Price Challenge Cup until she 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 knew exactly what it was and she wanted it, to protect and preserve it. 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 her 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.
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.
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 youtube 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.