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By Steve Strevens

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Sunday, the day after a match, was not the ideal time to train but there was no other—the players all had farms to run during the week and that took up every daylight hour. Most of all, Bob loved watching the occasional fight behind the hall after home games when someone had decided to finish an on-field altercation. Each Saturday during the season, Bob’s Uncle Ray Borchard would pick up a few players in his car and drive them out to Yarraby for the match. After the games, which finished in the middle of the afternoon, they all returned to the Grand Hotel in Nyah West to spend a few hours celebrating or commiserating.

As the moon f lickered and threw crazy patterns across the tracks, the distance home seemed even greater than on the way over. Bob’s mind was jumbled. What if I have a puncture? What if something happens to me? Eventually he arrived home close to midnight. No-one was awake when he crept into the house. He made his way to his bed where the sounds of gunshots and the thump as the horses hit the ground rolled around his head as he tried in vain to sleep. When school finished for the year at the end of 1944, Bob’s priority, as it was every year, was with the harvest, such as it was.

The work on the channels was backbreaking, and every now and again heartbreaking. When they returned, they found the wind had switched from the south to the north in their absence and had blown all the sand back in. They had to start the section again and there was no extra pay. And it was not only the channels that needed work. Sand drifts often blocked the roads and piled high against the fences to within a few inches of the top. Cattle and sheep could literally walk out of the paddocks. But mile-by-mile the teams of men worked their way along the channels.

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