Exposing Wagga’s urban legends and myths

If you’ve lived or travelled through the city of Wagga Wagga, you may have heard some of its urban myths and legends.

It is well known as being the City of Good Sports and the “Place of Many Crows”, with a “Big River” running through it, according to the Wiradjuri dialect. 

It is also the birthplace of the Chiko Roll, the home of many sporting legends and the World Championship Gumi Race.

But it is the lesser known and not easily believed quirks that make Wagga, Wagga.

Tourists and travellers are sceptical when you tell them Wagga has a beach. 

It may not be girt by sea – being 500 kilometres inland – but it does indeed have its own beach, complete with sand and a wave. 

The five o'clock wave has become one of Wagga's biggest mysteries, with locals swearing they have witnessed its wonder. 

The 'wave' that is often seen at the Wagga beach at five o'clock is from an outlet of water upstream.

Residents down at the beach were asked if they’d heard of the iconic wave, to which one resident replied: “Who hasn’t heard of the five-o’clock wave?”

Another young local woman said she had just come from surfing the gnarly beast itself. 

But what lies below the surface of the Murrumbidgee River may be more unbelievable than its elusive wave. 

The Murrumbidgee mud shark is said to lurk in the depths. 

Compleat Angler Rod Cockburn said a lot of questions had been asked about the shark across the years. 

“Basically it’s a myth that goes around,” Mr Cockburn said. 

“Look, there’s a lot of monster fish in our river system here; huge cod, huge carp and they’ve been around for a lot of years.”

The fishing expert said over the past few years anglers has told stories about their experiences on the water. 

“When they’re down there fishing, they hook a fish and it breaks their line or busts their rod to pieces,” he said.

“These fish keep taking their bait and busting them off.”

While he admitted the incidents were more likely to be linked to one of these unusually large fish, it could also be the mythical Murrumbidgee Mud Shark. 

If you think the river’s finned fiend is a hard pill to swallow, maybe you haven’t heard of the piranhas at Lake Albert. 

Yes, it actually happened.

A prankster thought it would be funny to release the fierce fish into the lake and cause a panic among the city.

Luckily, the fish were removed and order was restored to the iconic Wagga body of water.

Outside mysterious creatures and natural phenomena, a number of people have become legends across the city, with a perpetual student at Charles Sturt University and a Japanese tourist-come-Kapooka recruit, turning conversations at pubs and bars. 

Have you heard of Trevor Fozdyke? Of course you have. 

Rumour has it Charles Sturt University is home to a long-time student who is said to have never left. 

Former Wagga Agricultural College student “Aggie” John Mahon said Trevor Fozdyke appeared about the same time as he was studying at the Wagga Agricultural College in the late 60s.

“He’s a slow-learning student,” Mr Mahon said. “He has been a student of the school ever since it appears.”

Current student Matt Harris said the “great man” could still be found around the college and “still playing the odd game of footy”.

“Old Trevor … yeah, he’s still chipping away at his first-year subjects,” Mr Harris said.

“He’s still kicking along … that’s the man.”

Then there is also the legend of Kapooka’s Japanese tourist. 

The young man is said to have allegedly hopped on an army recruitment bus in Sydney, before arriving at Blamey Barracks to spend two weeks training to become an Australian soldier.

The mysterious traveller-come-army recruit has been a topic of conversation at the First Recruit Training Battalion for a number of years. 

Major Michael Jasny said staff had figured the additional recruit member had been an anomaly and so they had “cracked on”.

“Maybe he didn’t speak up because the staff were a bit gruff,” Major Jasny said. 

“It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that, as we were processing their administration and security, we realised they weren’t even a member of army.”

Now what about the magic of Wagga? The good luck charm the city seems imposes on its favoured sporting stars?

You may have heard of The Wagga Effect. It is the phenomenon that has dominated the sporting lexicon for decades.

Not only is the city is home to some of the finest sports and training facilities in Australia, it has also produced some of its finest legends. 

Wagga can lay claim to a number of sporting and athletic heroes, including former cricket captain Mark Taylor, rugby’s Peter Sterling and AFL’s Paul Kelly. 

Other household names include Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater, Tony Roche and Wayne Carey.

The list is endless.

But is the effect real?

Chris Mortimer says it is. 

Mortimer – the youngest of the family dynasty – said the phenomenon came down to growing up in the country. 

He said a lot of good sportsmen and women were born and bred in a regional world of many varied codes. 

“It’s that country background that gives you the edge,” Mortimer said. “The Wagga Effect is still very much alive.”

He said you only needed to look at the greats, like Paul Kelly. 

Kelly, known as “Captain Courageous”, earned the nickname in his nine years as the Sydney Swans skipper.

The decorated midfielder was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

But Kelly - an AFL giant - cut his teeth playing rugby league for Wagga Brothers.

“Who knows what The Wagga Effect is?” Kelly said.

“Some people say it might be the water … I suggest it might be the beer … who knows.”

Kelly said either way, anyone considering the elite levels of sport should definitely consider a move to the City of Good Sports.