R's work christmas party was last week. It was in the the trugo club rooms in South Melbourne. "What is trugo?" he asked me. "Don't you remember when we lived in Balaclava and used to catch the train to Prahran and then walk to Commercial Road to have breakfast, we passed by what was like a lawn bowling green, but there were always old men playing a game that was like croquet but with black rubber things." He does remember. The ground has long gone. I think it was in behind the Cullen Hotel, perhaps where the playground now is.
A couple of you will know what trugo is, most of you will not. I will explain. Many stories and details conflict so I will use the details
It was a game invented by the workers at railway workshops in Yarraville in the 1920s. The workers would whack a rubber ring, something to do with the train buffers, the things where they bump against each other when carriages connect, down the length of a train carriage. Eventually it was moved to the outside where the length of the carriage was transferred to be the length of the field and the goal was the width of an internal train door/aisle width/track gauge (believe which ever you like).
In the 1950s the game changed in that instead of side swiping the wheel, it was hit between the legs like tunnel ball, with the competitor facing away from the the goal. The mallet is made from timber and is carefully balanced. In these more recent times trugo wheels are manufactured especially for the game.
Photo by Bohemian in Brunswick.
The were clubrooms sprinkled around the inner Melbourne suburbs and attempts were made to introduce it to the rest of the world, with an initially successful début in the Netherlands and a club survives in Sydney's Bankstown. Surviving Melbourne clubs are to be found in Ascot Vale, Brunswick, Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and Yarraville (unverified).
And the name? That was a good shot. It was a true go.
PS Between beginning to write this and publication, I have learnt that there is something about trugo at the Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.