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10 October 2016

The magnificent Murray CodsAustralia prides itself as being a great sporting nation. 

We have achieved and celebrated our prowess over many years, but some of our greatest sporting tales are either forgotten or yet to be told.

The tale of the Murray Bridge Cods is possibly one of our greatest, yet there has been little recognition of the amazing feat of nine South Australian men from Murray Bridge- until now.

UniSA Media Arts lecturer, Dr Carolyn Bilsborow, and  writer/producer/director Wayne Groom, have brought the legend of the Cods to life through their film ‘Paris or the Bush: the story of the Cods’.

“This story begins in 1924 when the Cods set off for the eighth Olympiad in Paris, France with little money and deeply scarred by war, they were ready to take on the best from Italy, Argentina, Canada and Yale University to become World Champions of eight-oared rowing,” Dr Bilsborow says.

“Sadly the Cods' story was on the verge of being forgotten. Everyone we have spoken to has known a small piece of the story, but this film has helped to put all the pieces back together.

“The result is phenomenal and tells a story of some of our greatest sporting champions.”

‘Paris or the Bush: the story of the Cods’ is a classic film about the Australian underdog that provides a glimpse of Aussie life in 20th century. 

“Who would have thought a group of guys from a small town could become the best rowers in Australia and then go on to represent their country at the Olympic Games?,” Dr Bilsborow says.

“It's like a fairytale which are always important for our cultural heritage - if we don't tell our own stories, who will?”

While a feature film script had been written loosely based on the story of the Cods, as Wayne and Carolyn began a campaign to raise funds to produce the film, they realised the magnitude of the story.

“Wayne began to see that the real story of the Cods was far more impressive than the script that had been written and that the scripted story wasn't going to do justice to the real story or the descendants of the rowers,” Dr Bilsborow says.

“He began talking to historians and descendants and decided to make a documentary before embarking on the scripted feature film.”

Securing several grants, including two ANZAC commemoration grants, to finish the film, Dr Bilsborow and Wayne Groom spent 2014 filming around Australia, England, France and Ireland.

“More than 50 people were interviewed for the film and we tracked down descendants for all of the rowers and their coach,” Dr Bilsborow says.

“Two of the descendants, who are now in their 80’s and 90’s, were children of the rowers who and were so proud to share the stories of their fathers’ Olympic adventures.”

Almost one hundred years on, the story of the Cods inspired our Olympians at the 2016 Rio Games, with the film being selected as one of the three to be screened at the Olympic Village.

Rowing Australia CEO Michael Scott describes ‘Paris or the Bush: the story of the Cods’ as an inspiring documentary.

“Rowing has a proud history in the Olympic Games and to see the Murray Cods celebrated in such a way is fantastic,” Scott says.

“The athletes embodied everything that is great about our sport—determination, resilience, team work and friendship.”

Dr Bilsborow and Wayne are currently negotiating a deal to screen ‘Paris or the Bush: the story of the Cods’ on Foxtel’s History Channel.

The University of South Australia will host a free special screening of the film on Wednesday 12 October from 6.30pm- 9.30pm at the Hartley Playhouse Magill campus.

Reserve your seat and view the trailer here.

Media Contact: Katrina McLachlan office (08) 8302 0961
email katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au
 mobile 0414 972 537

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