Standing on the outside lookin’ in

Work commitments took me down to my old stomping ground around Albury this week. I’m not sure how Albury became “the greatest inland city in Australia” but it is apparently that. Since moving to the less greater land locked city on Canberra many year ago, Albury’s greatness has been considerably elevated above my teenage memories. Possibly the promo on 2AY was also making an inclusive reference to the cross river “sister city” of Wodonga as its citizens are reportedly amongst the greatest lard-arsed in Victoria.

Albury and Wodonga serve as a rural mirror to the relationship held by Sydney and Melbourne. Just without the pissing competition and far less crackers on New Years Eve. Albury was always the older brother of the pair but Wodonga has steadily grown to the point that it will take on the mantle of older sibling in the next decade of so. Melbourne seems destined for a similar fate given its sprawl in all directions. That old saying of not wishing to hard or you might just get what you wish for, rings true. With growth comes traffic and transport nightmares and lots of angry people. Melbourne, you’ve now got your own Parramatta Rd. Congratulations.

Albury also shares another common thread with Wodonga, that being the radio and television signals emanating from Melbourne. When I arrived back in the inland hamlet of Canberra mid week, friends were completely unaware that Ron Barassi had taken a nasty tumble on his treadly. Strangely, the event was not amongst the lead stories in the evening bulletins. Similarly, they were agape with news that Mick Malthouse had suggested that the Yarra could be saved by the re-introducing refundable bottles and cans in Victoria. Pity Mick didn’t display such insight in last year GF when choosing not to recycle another backman on to Tom Hawkins.

There is something reassuring, in a Melbourne kind of way, about tuning into to old stagers such as Mal Waldron on Channel Ten. Even Jennifer Kyte seems like part of the furniture in your Chaise lounge, rather than poofe foot stool, range of home comforts. It’s like switching on the tele as a youngster on Sunday morning knowing that Ron Casey and the World of Sport would enter your lounge room like an old uncle at Christmas time, only seemingly more pissed. W of S, not my uncle, as Dave could hold his end against anyone in the xmas beer stakes. Confusingly, Sandy Roberts continues to haunt the studios of Channel Seven. I know the World Series Cricket boys scored jobs for life at Nine but Sandy’s done very well.

I ventured to Corowa on Tuesday where the cross border rivalry with Wahgunyah takes a deserved back seat to the majestic Murray River and its glorious towering gums*. Corowa is a town like many along the river. A main street full of pubs called The Royal, Hotel Australia and The Star leading down to the local footy ground surrounded by hundreds of Murray Redgums. Home to the Corowa Roos who, unlike their city namesakes, have elected to stay by the river since 1903. A ground that is featured on the cover of one of Paul Daffey’s books on local footy if my memory serves me, which it usually doesn’t. Just buy all his books and you will eventually find it.**

So I’ve been that bit closer to Melbourne this week. The tennis is coming to an end and Ronald Dale will have sore ribs for a few weeks. Mick is saving the Yarra and Sandy is still a dolt. The NAB cup is a few more sleeps away and the weather is hot. Just as is should be in Melbourne in January.

Tip of the week
Those of you who have children who jump off rope swings into the depths of the Murray should take note. Always use an old bike frame as your preferred swing attachment and knock off some decent cable from the local council, rather than knocking off rope from the old bloke next door, to ensure the integrity of the swing.*** The current post drought high flow hides a myriad of dangers, not least the odd snag that wasn’t there last summer and the ever present tiger snakes that lurk amongst the bulrushes. I should know. I grew up in the greatest inland city in Australia.

Tony’s Weekly Dump
The visual, audible and cultural pollution that are jet skis. Enough said.

See ya next week

*Gratuities are welcome from both NSW and Victorian Tourism.
** Gratuities are welcome from Mr Daffey and his publishers.
*** Those with a sense of honesty can get some cheap stuff from Bunnings but don’t say you weren’t warned.

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Rocket Kim says

    On ya TR.

    Always like pieces with a country perspective, especially when it’s about my beloved Riverina.
    John Foord oval in Corowa is one of the best set I know.
    Just wish Corowa would drop the pretence of still being merged with Rutherglen – go back to being the Spiders and reignite a wonderful football tradition.

  2. Mark Doyle says

    An interesting perspective of my ‘home’ Albury. The curious thing is why Albury and most places that are approximately 50 kms. north of the Murray river have a Victorian culture in respect of footy and beer. I think that Culcairn on the Olympic highway and Mullengandra on the Hume highway were the last places to serve Victorian beer in the old days of regulation. There was a similar boundary for aussie rules and rugby league footy codes. I believe that the culture of Albury and Wodonga is less parochial than that of Sydney and Melbourne because people have to live with both: the Victorian footy and beer and the NSW politics and education. Albury and Wodonga are also more interesting regional places to live because of the Whitlam government initiative in the early 1970’s to bring industry and the arts to the area. The contribution of the children’s circus group ‘The Flying Fruit Fly Circus’ and the theatre group ‘The Murray River Performing Theatre’, which is now called ‘The Hothouse Theatre’ have enhanced the culture of Albury and Wodonga. Albury will always be the senior partner over Wodonga because of better shopping, schools and entertainment.

  3. Thanks Rocket, I knew that Corowa weren’t always called the Roos but has forgotten about the Spiders. I can now picture the red back on the scoreboard as they played in Essendon’s strip. Sadly, all the web sites in the Riverina are gerated by some generic website that doesnt provide an accurate history of the teams. JF Oval is a ripper and I think Yarrawonga’s ground had a similar backdrop. I was in Walla on Monday which is in close proximity to Burrumbuttock, once home to our esteemed editor JTH. It’s name derived for the German words Burrum ( tight) and Buttock (arse). They were burying one of the Wenke patriachs and there was a huge turn up. The area was awash with Whoolies and Wheeties (obscure reference the the old $2 note) The dams as still full and the Riverina is a happy place despite the grass now looking drier than Jim Maxwell’s commentry.

    Mark, Growing up in Albury it, was brave person who ventured across the border into High St or Dean St on a Saturday night. We didnt like each other and that animosity was born from many years of football hatred, none more so that when Mick Bone was playing for Wodonga. Mind you, the Hoppers and the Tigers were no firm allies in Albury. particularly in the 50s, when teams where divided more by religionous background that post code.
    I seem to remember the pub at Tarcutta always having a VB sign out the front but his was an exeption in Old Kent teritory. Gough’s decentralisation never realised it potential . Hence Austalians still clings to the coast whele the country slowly dies. I dont know how footie survives in these joints but it will.

  4. John Butler says

    Enjoying these missives TR.

    Keep practising that Carlton Strut brother.

    I’m intending to give mine a good airing this season. :)

  5. I have fond memories of Wodonga.

    My dad grew up in Wodonga and was a prefect at Wodonga High in the 50s. When I was a little boy, Wodonga was sometimes a Christmas holiday destination.

    I remember hot days and cold nights; getting up to meet the milkman at 5am; watching nothing but the ABC; visiting the town centre in my pop’s pristine 1930s Chevy; learning to play chess.

    According to dad, Wodonga High had the measure of most of the school footy teams in the area, but were nowhere in Albury’s league. As alluded to by Mark above, interesting how a school from NSW can outplay a Victorian school in Aussies Rules.

    As an aside, I read somewhere that Aussie Rules was the dominant sport in both NSW and NZ until the kybosh was put on it by pro-rugby school masters. I wonder where Aussie Rules would be in terms of its global profile if it was completely dominant in both countries.

  6. JB
    Ive been practicing the strut in the off season and feel that it may come into play this season.

  7. Pete, it one believes the Melbourne media, the AFL already has a global profile like no other and who can argue with that.

  8. Mark,

    The Rock marked the boundary of the Carlton line on the Olympic Way and Narrandera on the Newell hwy.
    As TR points out Wagga was Old Kent territory. Brewed inthe city. The Carlton line crept into Wagga from the south. Firstly,to the Tolland Hotel – sponsor of the Uni Bushpigs then out to the uni itself in the 80s.

  9. Thanks for the memories of the mighty Murray Tony. We lived further along past Echuca . Swimming in the Murray on a hot summer day was always so glorious .
    We used to swim across the river , stand on the other side and with nothing but gum trees around , enjoy declaring to be in another state. Dad used to tell us “Things are different as soon as you cross the border” I find it ironic that I now live in NSW. But I understand what dad meant all those years ago now.

  10. cheers Pamela
    I get to Albury quite bit but it was the first time in ages id gone down the river. Its quite beatiful. I too used to declare war on our cross border cousins when we swam to the Vic side of the river. I took my kids on the essential Albury experince two years ago. Floating from the Union Bridge down to Norielle Park on a 40 degree day when the waterr is about 14C. They are hooked Nothin like it

  11. Mark Doyle says

    Mention of Mick Bone, who coached Wodonga in the late 60’s or early 70’s, reminds me of a funny occurence in a practice game against North Melbourne – Wodonga were leading by about 8 goals before half time and North called for a head count. I think Wodonga had either 22 or 24 players on the ground. Mick Bone was a very funny and cheeky man. I think his son Simon was playing in one of the minor leagues until recently. Mick Bone and Gary Williamson, who I think came from South Melbourne, did a great job at Wodonga and developed a good footy culture with both the juniors and adult players.
    Tony, I don’t remember a particularly strong rivalry between the two Albury teams and Wodonga in the 60’s, but Albury and North Albury had a fierce rivalry with many on field brawls. I think Lavington and Wodonga developed a strong rivalry in the 80’s and they had an infamous all in brawl in a grand final which involved spectators.
    Pete, I think your old man was probably right about the weakness of junior footy in Wodonga. Albury had three very strong clubs in all age grades in St. Pat’s, Albury and North Albury. I remember St. Pat’s had several kids from Wodonga. These kids went to school in Albury because there was no catholic high school in Wodonga. Wodonga people also had to go to Albury to do most of their shopping – I think Wodonga got it’s first supermarket about the mid 60’s.

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