The MCG is located 1150 kilometres north of Adelaide at the Santos-owned gas exploration and processing facility in the Cooper Basin.
“The Cooper Cup began in 1979 as a 30 over cricket match between Santos’ Moomba based workers and local landowners, and since the mid-1980s has incorporated a charity auction to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service,” said event committee member and former Santos player Peter Lamb.
“The RFDS is an essential service in rural Australia, and the local community near Moomba relies on the Flying Doctor to deliver healthcare services and emergency assistance,” said Mr Lamb.
“Supporting them through the Cooper Cup is our way of showing appreciation for the great work that they do.”
2013 saw a high scoring game with the landowner’s Cooper Creek Cricket Club batting first in 35 degree heat and scoring an impressive 184 runs off their allocated 30 overs, only to be mown down by the Moomba team scoring 187 and winning with 26 balls to spare.
The win raised the Santos team winning record to 20 games to the landowners 11, with two tied games occurring in 1992 and 2011.
An enthusiastic crowd attended the auction on Saturday night with over 60 diverse items on offer, ranging from sporting memorabilia and holidays through to a lunch with Santos CEO David Knox.
Almost $100,000 was raised from this year’s event, making a total of over $1.3 million collected for the RFDS since the competition began.
This year, some landowners drove over 400 kilometres on unsealed roads to participate, with most staying overnight on-site in rooms at the employee camp.
Recognising the importance of the game, Santos teamed up with the South Australian Cricket Association this year to secure the services of former test umpire Max O’Connell to assist former South Australian players Sam Parkinson and Jason Borgas with umpiring duties.
Each year former SA batsman Barry Curtain and radio commentator Dennis Browne provide a ball by ball commentary to the watching crowd, which this year was estimated at around 300 people and 3000 flies.
Apart from a three-year break in the early 1980s, the games have occurred annually since 1979, with floods seeing the game postponed in 2010. Bushfires in 2011 saw the landowners unable to field a team, however, in the spirit of the event, sides were selected from workers, visitors and Cobham Airlines flight crew present on the day.
Maree Morton and her husband Graham manage the Kidman station near Innamincka and have been involved in the Cooper Cup since its inception.
“The Cooper Cup provides an opportunity for landowners to not only meet and build relationships with Santos employees, but also with other landowners of the area,” Maree said.
“The stations out here are very large and your nearest neighbours can often be more than 100 kilometres away. It is good to be able to get together at a social event and have a chat and laugh.
“Our remoteness certainly poses a challenge when you are looking to field a cricket team, but each year we get a team together and put in a competitive performance,” she said.
“Santos has been part of the Cooper Basin for almost 60 years and their operations have become part of our landscape. They take their role seriously about being a part of our community and helping organise the Cooper Cup for over 30 years is a great demonstration of that.
“When you live and work in remote areas, you feel more comfortable when you know and trust the people around you. This is a benefit of an activity such as the Cooper Cup,” she said.
RFDS South Eastern Section board member Ruth Sandow attended the cup this year and says fundraisers such as the Cooper Cup help keep the Royal Flying Doctor Service operational.
“As a not-for-profit organisation we rely on the community to help fund our services, so events like this are important and we are very grateful for the funds raised by the Cooper Cup.”