The Pyree Rovers, it might not be a name that quickly comes to mind when thinking about local rugby league teams.
Did you even know Pyree had had a rugby league team?
Well-known local historian and prolific author Robyn Florance has brought the club's history to life in a new book - Pyree Rovers The Story of a Football Club.
She has already compiled 180 plus pages including some fantastic photographs.
Pyree Rovers Football Club was formed under the affiliation of Rugby Union in May 1901 and was one of four new clubs formed in the district that year which included Cambewarra, Coolangatta and Gerringong.
The competition for the season comprised teams from Coolangatta (Rob Roys), Pyree (Rovers), Cambewarra, Berry, Gerringong, Kembla and Nowra (Warriors).
The Pyree Rovers Football Club folded in 1904 due to lack of players.
A new football club was formed under the new code of rugby league in March 1920 and over the next 25 years it won three lower grade premierships in the South Coast Competition.
Pyree amalgamated with the Nowra Warriors from 1948 and played under the Nowra-Pyree banner in 1949, 1950, 1952 in first grade.
In 1953 the Pyree club was resurrected with Artie Smith as president and Greg Watts secretary.
The club folded in 1955 when the South Coast League affiliated with Group 7.
While they may not have gained the same success as its famous cricketing teams, (Pyree cricket was formed in 1888 and dominated the Shoalhaven Association with more premierships than any other club in the first half of the 20th century), there was still plenty to cheer about.
The club played 22 seasons with the South Coast Rugby League between 1920 and 1954, claiming the reserve grade title in 1935, beating Kangaroo Valley 12-2 and in1945 beating Albion Park 7-6.
The club also claimed an under 18 title (in only the second year the competition was staged) 1939 beating Gerringong 13-11. The northern side would turn the tables the following year winning the grand final 13-4.
However a first grade title proved elusive.
There is record of the club winning a junior competition in 1903 and a special one round knockout competition in 1925 beating Kiama 14-9.
The book tells the story of both football clubs and of the many people who contributed to the success - the officials, players and supporters associated with both clubs.
Early history - A meeting held at the Pyree Literary Institute on Tuesday, May 7 1901 had the purpose of forming football club and was largely attended.
The following officers were elected - Patron Samuel Laws. President Peter A Ryan. Secretary/Treasurer Stanley J Monaghan. Captain Edward 'Ted' O'Connor.
Selection committee: Messers Alex 'Trump' McDonald, Edward 'Ted' O'Connor and Stan J Monaghan.
It was reported Pyree should be able to put a good team into the field with a little practice. William Bassas, of Comerong, who has played with several Sydney clubs, is throwing his lot in with Pyree
A field for training and home matches was essential and through the generosity of the Morris O'Connor the paddock was made available on his farm free to the club.
It was known as a O'Connor's paddock.
William C Morrison and also provided a paddock of his property at Berrellan for the players to use.
Club meetings were held in the Pyree Institute and the footballers used the gymnasium to help gain match fitness and with the grounds for night training, which were lit by large 'Gloria' (benzyne gas) lights.
The Pyree Rovers Football Club territory was an area east of East Street, later Kinghorn Street Nowra and within the boundaries of the South Shoalhaven Municipal Council and drew on players from the adjoining villages of Terara, Numbaa, Jindiandy, Greenwell Point, Comerong, Mayfield, Berrellan (Brundee), Roseby Park and Lower Numbaa.
Being the centre of a rural farming community, most of the players knew each other from childhood, many had been educated at the Pyree Public School or Nowra Intermediate High School.
Several of the players later enlisted and served together in the First World War and on returning home kept in touch and played sports together and looked after each other.
Family involvement was evident and the teams throughout the years contained the names of Aldous, Borrowdale, Regan, Coulthart, Jones, Caddle, Pollock, Monaghan, Smith, Murray, Armstrong, Wilson, Watson, Hollands, Gardner, Murphy, McGuire and Watts on a regular basis.
While the winter season was for football, summer was for cricket and most of the men who played football were also members of the Pyree Cricket Club and sometimes the seasons overlapped.
Pyree's second coming - Pyree's second coming was kicked off on March 12, 1920 when a meeting was convened at Pyree Literary Institute by Thomas Caddell for the purpose of forming a rugby league club.
Those present included Albert Bush, Jack Watts, Horace Watts, Jim Wilson, Frazer Armstrong, J. Wall, Edgar Bush, N. Regan, Harry Regan, John Regan, Arthur Smith, G. Coulthart, Jack Caffery, Jack Caddell and Thomas Caddell.
The club was formed and played out of a ground at the eastern end of Junction Street, in the vicinity of where the vacant car park area opposite the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen's Club is today.
By the 1930s matches had moved the Caines' family's property on Pyree Lane.
In later years the club also joined a close association with a number of players from the nearby naval base HMAS Albatross.
The Pyree Literary Institute/School of Arts was the venue for many euchre parties/dances during the seasons and proved very popular and provided much needed funds for the Rovers.
One such occasion to celebrate the 1945 reserve grade premiership more than 500 people attended the function, with buses even put on to transport people from Nowra and further afield.
Alderman Artie Smith is quoted as saying "the premiership is not just for Pyree Football Club, it's for Pyree itself."
Latter history - As stated Pyree amalgamated with the Nowra Warriors from 1948 and played under the Nowra-Pyree banner in 1949, 1950, 1952 in first grade.
In 1953 the Pyree club was resurrected with Artie Smith as president and Greg Watts secretary.
The club folded in 1955 when the South Coast League affiliated with Group 7 but not before a number of players made their presence felt - a number going on to play representative football.
"I hope by compiling these stories the history of the club will not be forgotten," Mrs Florance said.
"I hope in reading them you enjoy the trip down memory lane as much as I did compiling them."
Greg Watts one of Pyree's oldest surviving players -
He also faced the touring American All Stars
One of, if not the oldest surviving Pyree Rovers player is Greg Watts.
Now living in retirement in Berry, at 90 he recalls his first game being in the 1945 when he was home on school holidays.
The Watts family name is synonymous with the club.
His father Horace was one of the founding members when the club was resurrected in 1920
"Dad and Tom Caddell used to play in the front row," he said.
"They were nearly all locals. They had wonderful club spirit among them. They just played to enjoy themselves.
"Dad was born in 1900 so was about 20 at the time.
"He had a brother Jack, who wasn't involved in football. He went away to school, became a chemist and never came back to the farm, opening a chemist in Leeton."
"My father played as long as he could," he said.
"He was not a big man, about 5 ft 11 inches, 14-15 stone, broad shoulders and barrel chested.
"He loved the game rough. In those days forwards were forwards and along with Tom Caddell, who was a big tall bloke, they loved the rough stuff.
"Jim Wilson was in the second row and he liked it tough too.
"I don't say they won a lot but they were always a force to be reckoned with. Very competitive and gave as good as they got."
Greg's first taste of senior football was in 1945, when home on school holidays from Holy Cross College in Ryde where he was attending high school.
"They were short in reserve grade and asked if I'd play," he said.
"I played lots of cricket and football at school and jumped at the chance.
"I played on the wing and would play whenever I was home."
One of 10 children, including six boys, it was inevitable he would at some stage play with some of his brothers.
Quite often he was joined in the Rovers' colours with younger brothers Rex and Murray, who played front row and hooker respectively.
"It was pretty special to all play together," he said.
"We did it for quite a few years and if I remember right we even played some rep football all together as well," he said.
"Rex and I also both played a fair bit of rep cricket as well. Rex went on to also be a bit of a force in the front row with Nowra.
"I played all my football with Pyree - mostly I was on the wing, but at times if we were short or players couldn't turn up you just pitched in and filled the gap.
"In later years we got some navy guys to supplement the teams.
"Some of them were looking for a game of football, arrangements were made to get them transported out for training.
"On weekends we would all get on a bus to go to games. Usually it was a Harrison's bus and we would all travel together.
"A lot of the navy guys didn't have their own cars and neither did a lot of us.
"We'd play against Nowra, Berry, Gerringong, Jamberoo, Albion Park, Kiama and Milton.
"Back then to travel to Milton or Albion Park was a feat in its own - it wasn't just a quick 45 minute trip on the highway like it is now.
"We were pretty competitive, it was an ideal blend and it gave us enough players to at least have a team.
"We never won any premiership, second grade did but that was before my time.
"We definitely were nowhere near as successful as the cricketers.
"But it was a good club and the camaraderie was first class."
He said football was "fun in those days".
"We trained pretty seriously but all of us had already had a full day's work. A lot of us were on the farms, so we were already physically fit," he said.
"The matches were pretty willing."
He laughs about having to spend time in Milton Hospital on one occasion after getting his nose broken in a southern clash.
"Milton were big and rough," he said. "Sometimes it was survival of the fittest - it wasn't an afternoon tea."
Among one of his footballing highlights was playing for the Southern Districts team against the touring American All Stars at Manuka Oval in Canberra on Wednesday, May 27, 1953.
The Southern team raced out to a 20-8 lead at half-time with Mr Watts remembering officials asking captain, legendary Berry play Gus Miller, to "take it easy" on the visitors.
"Gus was having none of that and either were we," he said.
Newspapers reports stated the Americans "spent the first half learning and the second half playing".
The visitors, many of them who had never played the game before, eventually ran out winners 34-25, with Al E. Kirkland scoring four tries."
"I was fortunate to get picked on the wing for that game," he said.
"I think I had a good game and scored a couple of tries the week before.
"It was the Americans first game in Australia. I thought we beat them pretty easily?"
Watts featured in a stunning photo from the game tackling his opposite number Ed Demirjiam, but unfortunately even back then the press got things wrong and he was called George in the photo caption.
Mike Dimitro, a wrestling promoter, brought his American All Stars on a 26 match tour of Australia and New Zealand. None of the 22 players had played rugby league previously. In 18 matches in Australia, the All Stars won three, lost 13 and drew two.
They scored 406 points, but had 560 scored against them.
In their eight New Zealand matches, they won three and lost five, scoring 157 points to 211 against.
Following their tour opening win, the Americans played against a strong Sydney team at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of a sellout crowd of 65,453.
They were beaten 52 -25 and in their next match at the SCG, against NSW, just over 32,000 saw the Americans thrashed 62- 41.
The tourists went on to played through country centres of NSW, in Brisbane and through Queensland country league strongholds.
Mr Watts' playing career ended in 1955, not long after he was married, and he had the distinction of playing at the time the highly coveted Country Week competitions in both cricket and rugby league.
As for the best he played with, he nominated Johnny Rouse.
"He was a five-eighth, I think he represented Combined Country and NSW at one stage," he said.
"He was a class above. A farm boy from the North Coast who came down to work on a relative's farm at South Nowra.
"A very good player and a great bloke too. He would come out home to the farm a lot. He ended up having some time with Nowra as well.
"The Regans, Jack and Ted, were also very good footballers - we knew them pretty, we all grew up together, they lived around the corner and also came up to the Pyree University."
He conceded Berry's Gus Miller, the only person to be made a life member of Group 7 Rugby League purely on his playing ability, was "legendary".
"Gus was legendary and lasted a long time playing football - he played for NSW frequently and was unlucky not to make a Kangaroo tour," he said.
"He was one of the legends in his day and still is. He's 94 and still amazing.
"We still catch up which is great and he has a great memory."
Want to read more local history?