History | The 1923 sport that tempted Cessnock women away from 'domestic duties'

PREMIERS: The Weston Magpies No.1 vigoro team of 1923 proudly display their premiership trophy.

PREMIERS: The Weston Magpies No.1 vigoro team of 1923 proudly display their premiership trophy.

In 1923 the sport of vigoro arrived in Cessnock and was an instant hit. The Weston Magpies Girls Vigoro Club was formed, along with four other clubs with the lyrical names Sunshine, Bellbird Kia-Ora, Rovers and the Shamrocks.

The Cessnock Vigoro Association was soon set up and a formal competition organised with 11 teams playing.

The Magpies had so many women playing that they started a second team with Magpies no. 1 regularly at, or near, the top of the competition ladder.

Barely six months after the vigoro competition began the individual teams had developed their own passionate fan base, games were regularly attracting thousands of spectators and the first reports of poaching of players had emerged.

Vigoro was played at local parks, usually on a Saturday afternoon. With no entry charge to get in and the games being fast- moving and entertaining it soon proved to be hugely popular.

But this enthusiasm for vigoro initially alarmed the local newspapers. They labelled it a craze, a game with a puzzling and extraordinary fascination for women and one which might be tempting married women away from their domestic duties.

However they did concede that at least all that running around had a positive aspect it was an antidote for fatness.

All sporting teams need to raise funds and vigoro was no different. The Magpies held a social at the Olympia Hall, Weston which attracted almost 200 people who danced until 2am.

Other popular fundraising strategies were so-called penny raffles (because tickets were a penny each) and house parties. A house party was basically a backyard concert with a cover price of six pence.

Supper was provided by volunteers and the nights entertainment consisted of anyone who could sing, or play a musical instrument and was game enough to get up and perform.

On December 1, 1923 the final match of the year was played with two of the original teams in the competition, Magpies no. 1 and the Rovers, facing off against each other. A big crowd watched the Magpies claim victory, beating the Rovers by 104 runs. Go the mighty Magpies!

Kimberly O’Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock Library.