A football club has proved the remedy for depression and isolation in the Condamine district of southern Queensland.

Story By Annabelle Brayley

A decade ago the district around Condamine, a tiny rural community on the banks of the Condamine River in Queensland, faced economic, social and cultural challenges. The young men in the area lacked a positive outlet for their energies and there was limited local sport and few single women.
Watching a Super 12 rugby game on television in the Condamine Pub (known as the Cod Hole) one night, licensee Bluey Smith pondered the problem with local grazier, Lee McNicholl. Both past GPS rugby players and, in Lee’s case, a junior Wallaby and Queensland player, Bluey and Lee share a serious passion for the game. Fired up by every sensational try scored on the box, both reckoned they could give their community a much-needed injection of positivity by starting a rugby club. Bluey jotted down a list of potential players and Lee tackled the logistics. Negotiating with the Roma Echidnas, they started the ball rolling, and in 1999 fielded their first team playing in the Darling Downs Rugby draw in place of a non-existent Roma C-grade. The Condamine Cods Rugby Club was spawned.
The Cods, including Lee and Bluey, played their first game against the Dalby Wheatmen. A player short, they shanghaied a bloke out of the Cod Hole and into the team. Remembering, Bluey chuckles, “He was a broken-down rodeo rider called ‘Croc’. A great bloke who probably only ever played the one game. We lost, but after that we started to get our act together”. In fact, they made the grand final and, although they lost, the Cods were hooked.
In their second season, they were confronted by tragedy when one of their younger players, Gerard Hinz, suicided. Remembered by his family, friends and teammates as a cheerful youngster who loved playing with the Cods, his inexplicable death left a legacy. While the Cods were determined to play rugby and have fun, they were equally determined to look out for each other.
Bluey believes that “part of the success of the Cods was and is the mix of young people involved. They are all really good people although some of them were a bit wild. In the beginning, Lee was the linchpin that transformed them into a viable team. They have a lot of respect for him and each other”.

This story excerpt is from Issue #58

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2008