Kyrgios and The Cod

The Yarrawonga holiday in summer is about tennis, not cricket, for me. And about a well-worn path that is witness to my own gradual ageing.


On the Benalla-Yarrawonga Road there sits an old house that has shrunk about 60 metres back off the bitumen amongst yellowing paddocks and rusty farming contraptions. It’s done its work – housed the family, borne witness to meals, celebrations, conversations, births, failures, victories and (doubtless) soulful mourning for lost ones. I know this because I have been driving past this house since I was a toddler; some 50 years or so. As a little tacker the trek up to Yarrawonga was a four and a half hour odyssey with eight of us packed into the Kingswood. The purpose was to visit Mum’s cousin who lived with her mother in an impossibly quiet, dark house full of mahogany furniture, delicate Chinese vases and ticking grandfather clocks. Conversations seemed to be in whispers. The aromas I recall were gardenia and old cardigans. Now I take my own family on holiday to Lake Mulwala, five kilometres down the road.


The old house we drive past has retired. All that remains now is for it to tumble over. Each time I pass it, which might be 6 times a year, I can’t help but glance in search of new creases and wrinkles. The front veranda posts are warped and bent and hold the roof up with optimism and not much more. The two timber steps leading up to it have long since lost balance and toppled to one side. It doesn’t really have a colour, more an earthen, corroded hue that matches the landscape. The structure seems to be collapsing forward onto itself, like the rows of dominos we used to set up as kids then push over. When it finally relents and falls on its face I wonder what the people inside will do? Perhaps there is a race to the end between the house and its occupants? I know people live there because if I’m passing at night, a dim, mouldy light peers out from behind the draped eyes of the house perched each side of the front door. One window slants down to the right and the other to the left, giving the facade a look of resigned consternation, like an old bloke agonising over a betting slip.


We arrived in Yarrawonga to delightful summer heat, raucous cicadas and unusual greenness. They have been getting the summer rains this year. We stay with a group of friends, about 15 of us in all, in bungalows that have a roof, a kitchen and a toilet. It’s a holiday that’s all about the outdoors, except for the fact that the Australian Open tennis is constantly on in someone’s room right across the days and nights, and it draws us inside when a contest demands our attention. The “pock” of tennis ball on racket is audible when passing most bungalow doors.


This year the tennis has been about the bright and the young. The aged are starting to fade.


“Seppi just knocked off Federer!” announced one of the kids as we sat under the elms sipping on bitterly cold Crownies in the heat of Yarrawonga’s summer afternoon.


“Geez the kid Kokkinakis can play” said a mate after dinner one cool evening, under the very same tree. “He looks about 12.”


“Rafa’s battling. Old bull, young bull. You know how it goes.”




“Madison Keys just keeps winning. How old? Maybe 20?”


The trend was obvious. The tennis world is witnessing a changing of the guard. Or a few guards anyway.


And then we all sat around the TV in our little bungalow and shouted for another kid called Krygios as he battled the pseudo Pom from Scotland. The bungalows are rudimentary and cramped. But they have TVs. As we watched the young Aussie with the strange Greek name, the picture failed. It turned into a pixelated mess. We could hear roars and groans but could see no score. The sound was warped out of shape, like the slow motion scenes in The Matrix. Whenever we had a moment of clarity the shout went up,


“Nobody move!”


But then it would jumble up again. We got so desperate that someone even went in search of an old wire coat hanger so we could fashion an aerial from it. How this would work and where on the TV we would insert the aerial was not really discussed. Fortunately the tennis Gods smiled upon us just in time to watch the tie breaker in the second set. There was a “click” and a splutter and the picture returned in all its glory. Obviously the I.T. bloke at TV Yarrawonga had woken up.


“Nobody move!!”


It was gripping drama. Kyrgios pressed hard and had his older opponent feeling uncomfortable. His serves were loose and unpredictable. And that’s probably what unnerved Murray. Watching Krygios was a bit like watching a young Jeff Thompson bowl out the Poms in the 70s; neither Krygios nor Thomo knew exactly where they’re missiles were going.


Krygios had him. Murray was second guessing. He had him. Just one more point; land the knockout blow. But Murray slipped the hook like a veteran cod fish that is his namesake. His shots were precise and deadly under pressure; a measure of a champion. And he let absolutely nothing go past him. Jim Courier commented that playing Murray would be like hitting a ball against a brick wall. Kyrgios relented, only for a moment, but it was enough.


We sagged in our seats as the result became inevitable but it gave us a good reason to leave the comfort of the elms and cram around a TV. It gave us a new sound of summer. He’s growing on me is Krygios. I like that he smiles during a game.


In the stands watching Kyrgios were Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall; wizened, grey champions. Both are slightly hunched and leaning to one side; retired in every sense. Their eyes still sparkled as the colourful fledgling of Aussie tennis went about his business. They may see the end but Kyrgios only sees bright lights. They are the aging house peering across the paddocks surrounded by old contraptions. And, just like the old house, they must have wonderful memories of glory days.


The holiday ended and we headed back down the Benalla-Yarrawonga Road. I get lost in thought on the endless straight sections of shimmering bitumen that meld with a blurry horizon. But I gave the old house a nod as we motored past. We’ll be back in March for one more water ski before winter closes in, and if the house has tumbled over I’ll feel just a little bit older.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Grand metaphor – beautifully expressed. Thanks Dips.
    Reading the third para reminded me of looking in the mirror before the morning shower these days.

  2. Thanks Dips.
    I spent a number of summer holidays in Yarrawonga as a child and know it well. It was always so damn hot, but just great fun swimming in the lake. And it was just a lovely country town. I remember taking my wife there before we had kids…she had never been to Yarrawonga before and loved the place. We were also fortunate enough to be there one year in winter with the kids when the lake had been drained – now that was spooky!
    Loved the Murray cod analogy!

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Ditto PB and Smokie. Ripper metaphor Dips. I respect the Murray (River). Not so sure about the charismatically challenged Scot.

    “One window slants down to the right and the other to the left, giving the facade a look of resigned consternation, like an old bloke agonising over a betting slip.” Brilliant

  4. Nice Dips – yep, there does seem to be some generational change heading our way. Lovely spot, Yarrawonga – some nice wine country thereabouts too!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Dips. Digital TV hasn’t been a winner has it, nothing worse than pixallating during live sport. Hope the old house keeps standing for a while longer!

  6. Love the simple elegance of this Dips. Sounds like a perfect summer!

  7. Gregor Lewis says

    I feel like a younger brother reading his eldest’s handmedowns, but my enthusiasm is nevertheless undimmed.
    Lovely languid metaphor lapping at the edges Dips, with hidden powerful currents to drag you deeper, like a well considered simile that evokes so much with so little…

    ‘… Betting slip.’ – what ‘Big Brother’ Phil said. Oh … and I LIKE IT TOOOOOO!

  8. Cheers Chaps. Appreciate the comments.

    Smokie – we’ll have to get you back up there one of these days!!

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Loved it Dips plenty of meaning and tennis wise especially men is gradually coming thru

  10. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Dips. The house is a constant. We love constants.

    Next time you drive past, you announce there’s Old Mate the House!

    You could do with leaving Nob Courier out of it. Mute button with Bruce and Jim.

    The brick wall analogy is flawed isn’t it?

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