18 August 2016
Greg Denieffe writes:
In January 2014, in an article called The Cods: Paris or the Bush? I reported the news that the story of ‘The Murray Bridge Cods’ was to be made into a documentary by Australian International Pictures. The idea was to tell the story of Murray Bridge Rowing Club and how they beat the odds to represent Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympics. It was planned to take a year to complete and be about 60 minutes long. In a situation familiar to HTBS contributors, the more that filmmakers Carolyn Bilsbrow and Wayne Groom researched, the bigger the project became and by the time the film went into post production in March 2015, it had doubled in length and costs were running at 200,000 Australian dollars (c. £120,000).
Wayne and Caroline left no stone unturned in their research. They travelled from South Australia to Tasmania; on to Paris and the battlefields of northern France; they visited the homes of English rowing – London, Cambridge and Henley-on-Thames; they even made it to the remote outpost (rowing wise) of Milton Keynes before crossing the Irish Sea to Dublin and Derry. More than a year passed and although everything to do with production was now in place for its release, Paris or the Bush needed one final piece of the jigsaw before it could see the light of day – getting clearance from copyright owners isn’t always easy and is often expensive.
In June, Wayne confirmed that the Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund had awarded the project a Federal grant to help cover the costs of purchasing archival footage for the film and finally the production of the much anticipated DVD could begin.
The fund’s report on why they supported the project is as follows:
Australian International Pictures Pty Ltd: Paris or the Bush, $30,000
The remarkable true story of a crew of returned soldiers from WW1 who, despite their injuries, become the greatest rowing eight in Australia, winning 4 Kings Cups and earning the right to represent Australia at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Paris or the Bush will be a 90-minute heroic cinema release documentary. So many stories about returned soldiers are filled with pain and disappointment as they try and often fail to resume their civilian lives. The Cods offer a different view, they not only resumed their rowing careers, despite being five years older and injured, they absolutely dominated Australian rowing from 1920—24, winning 3 Kings Cups and earning the right to proudly represent Australia at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris in 1924. The Cods realised their dream, becoming the greatest ever Australian rowing eight, they represented their country at war and, in peace, at the Olympic Games. This documentary, which has been painstakingly researched over a period of two years, celebrates the best of Australian sportsmanship and mate-ship, it is our greatest and most inspiring sporting story.
In the meantime, the film had premiers in Murray Bridge and Adelaide where the great and the good of South Australian rowing were treated to an emotional journey that I have been privileged to share. In fact, HTBS had covered the story of the Cods in two posts in May 2013; The Case of CoD v Cods and More on Murray Bridge and ‘The Cods’, unaware that at the same time, on the other side of the world, Wayne and Carolyn were doing their initial research into the story of the Cods.
Paris or the Bush is now available for viewing online (only in Australia as far as I can tell) through the News Corp network (Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Advertiser & Sunday Mail in Adelaide, Herald Sun in Melbourne etc.).
The good news is that the film is now available on DVD. Please email Wayne Groom at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange payment and postage details. The cost of the DVD is $20 plus $5 for postage in Australia and an inclusive price of $30 (DVD & pp) for overseas delivery. The format of the DVD is PAL which probably means that it will not play on all DVD players/televisions/computers – best to check with Wayne before ordering. Leander Club members should keep an eye out for a viewing that Hon. Treasurer, Hugh Richardson is hoping to organise following confirmation from Wayne that he was happy for them to screen it in their lounge.
‘Crewcial Collectables’ from the 1924 Games include the following two postcards. I have yet to see either one for sale that was actually posted. If you find one addressed to Murray Bridge, SA, you will have a rare piece of rowing memorabilia.