Murray Cods rowers' underdog story is central to Murray Bridge's identity

The first time I saw the film's hastily mocked-up teaser trailer, I knew Wayne Groom and Carolyn Bilsborow were on a winner.

"In 1924 eight men travelled to Paris for the race of their lives," it said.

"From a small town, they fought against all odds to be the best.

"A story that defies what we believe about war, class and age ... a story discovered in the archives ... Australian champions 1913, 1920, 1922, 1923."

All they had were a few black-and-white photographs and newspaper clippings, a stirring soundtrack and the first threads of the Murray Cods' story, but the emotion that trailer inspired hinted at the ability of its creators to bring a story to life.

That was more than two years ago.

Since then, the pair have mirrored the Cods' challenging journey, first raising the funds necessary for the project through hundreds of generous donations, then travelling the world in search of lost footage and interviews with the foremost experts.

The idea that two people can produce a professional 90-minute film boggles the mind, but I was lucky enough to see a few minutes at a test screening last week and I suspect it will live up to the trailers’ promise.

Put it in the town hall on Saturday night, a packed house with honour guards of World War I soldiers and rowers, with jazz music playing and vintage cars out the front, and it will really be an occasion.

Retell it in the historical displays proposed at Murray Bridge Rowing Club’s new headquarters, a facility which should become the centre of rowing in South Australia and a key feature of Murray Bridge’s new riverfront, and it will echo further down the years.

As someone who has recorded stories about this part of the world for more than four years, I must admit there are few I have found more exciting.

When I have written about the Cods, I have placed them among illustrious company: Bradman, Phar Lap, Australian heroes.

Because of the context in which it has been revived, theirs is more than an underdog sporting story.

Murray Bridge is a town grasping for a new identity: it has been a river port and a Housing Trust town, and now stakes its name on the quality of the food it produces.

I believe this film may represent another strand of the city’s central narrative, one that has been tucked away since 1924.

Murray Bridge, home of the Cods.

Peri Strathearn, senior journalist


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