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The Cods feature documentary about Murray Bridge rowing champs

The Cods feature-­length documentary is an extraordinary story of courage, humility, skill, ageism, class prejudice, war, sport and mateship. It is a uniquely South Australian story but has national and international relevance. It covers a fascinating period of Australian and world history, encompassing a Great War and spectacular sporting achievements. It is a story about 'ordinary men' in a small country town, working class men who sweated to earn a living, who not only defeated the cream of Australia's upper class society in a sport they had dominated from the 1870's but in the process foreshadowed a major change in the nature of Australian society.

Hailing from Murray Bridge in the 1910's and 1920's, the Cods crew were working class men who sweated on the railways to earn a living for themselves and their families. The Cods overcame many barriers including class prejudice (they were labelled 'frayed collars' by the elite Adelaide clubs), the ravages of war (5 of the crew enlisted for WW1, one was killed in action, three others badly injured, all were decorated for bravery) and the challenges of age (two of the crew were in their early 40's by the time they travelled to Paris to represent Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympics).

The Cods saga is the greatest untold story of Australia's sporting history, amazingly a story unique to Murray Bridge but also important to South Australia and the rest of the country. It is a story of fairytale proportions, set in an era when crowds of 40,000 or more lined the banks of the rivers of our capital cities to watch the races, a story about ordinary men from a small town overcoming all the odds to become the best in Australia. At their peak in 1924, the Cods champions were hailed in the national press as rowing like “bottled lightning”.

The Cods first won the National Eight-oared Championship in 1913, an astonishing achievement as South Australia had never before won the annual rowing championship in its forty year history. After the 1913 success, the young Cods crew seemed destined for greatness. But in 1914, the Great War intervened, redirecting their lives onto the battlefields of Europe. Five years later, when the Murray Bridge rowers returned home battered and injured, the obstacles they faced to continue competing were tremendous. They were older and in some cases injured. The barriers of class were still rigidly in place. But under the guidance of Teddy Higgs, a former champion Tasmanian rower and Boer War veteran, the Cods challenged for the national title again.

Remaining a defiantly single 'club crew' rather than a State based crew, they went on to win the Kings Cup three times the next four years, dominating the sport against all comers and eventually earning the right, despite a last minute act of treachery by 'officials' which almost derailed them, to represent Australia at the Paris Olympics.

The Cods story is not only about rowing, it is about nation building at the turn of the century, the difficulties of war service and the emergence of Australia's aspirational working class, an inspiring story of talented men who became not only champion rowers but heroes of their time.



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Australian International Pictures Pty Ltd, an Adelaide based film production company with over 33 years production experience, intends to make a major feature length documentary for Cinema release around Australia about the famous Cods rowing eight.

Wayne Groom is the principal of the independent film production company Australian International Pictures Pty Ltd. He is the Producer/Writer/ Director of the feature film Maslin Beach (1996), the telemovie Summer of Love (2001) and the television documentaries Tomorrow’s Sun (1999) and Running on Sunshine (2004).

Dr Carolyn Bilsborow is a freelance historical researcher. She is the producer of the web documentary Inside the Brotherhood Reel (2012) and is the researcher for the television documentary Muddied Waters (2012).

Phone: 0403 771 435


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