Queen Elizabeth II, legendary Australian cricketer Bill Lawry, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and Orange’s Ed Strudwick, what’s the link?
Pigeons, and lots of them.
Strudwick is a pigeon fancier, the 53-year-old raising and racing homing pigeons for over 30 years.
Like Tyson, Lawry and her majesty, Strudwick looks after squabs and squeakers until they’re old enough to race and says pigeon racing is essentially “horse racing in the sky”.
There’s no Winx or Makybe Diva, though. No names. Just numbers.
And virtually any of the 120 racing pigeons Strudwick shares with premiership-winning former Orange Emus coach Richard Turnbull is capable of being a champion.
“Some of the ones you don’t think will do well often do,” Strudwick said.
The pleasure of seeing something you’ve looked after for weeks on end come home ... that’s what it’s all aboutPigeon racing doyen Ed Strudwick
“You can look at some of them and say ‘that’s an ugly looking pigeon’ … but it’ll win races. There’s a genuine love for some of the birds that win races.”
And that’s something the Orange trainer is very familiar with.
Strudwick this year took out the Orange Pigeon Club Incorporated club championship crown, a point-score series that combines the Orange club’s short-race series and results from the Mid West Pigeon Racing Federation.
Orange’s Dave Graham was tied at the top after the short series and loft-mate Turnbull placed second in the mid-west campaign, but Strudwick’s consistency across both netted him the major prize.
He raced hens and cocks from starting points in Yeoval, Tomingley, Trangie and Nyngan throughout the club series – distances varying from just shy of 74 kilometres to over 260km – while Coolabah marked the start of the federation season.
The mid-west races are traditionally the longest of the season, with Coolabah a 337km marathon while races from Bourke, Barringun, Cunnamulla, Charleville and Wilcannia are all around 500km in distance.
Once the pigeons have been tossed at their release point, they fly home to their loft. The fastest is then crowned the winner.
Distance isn’t the pigeons’ only obstacle, though, with power lines, hawks, trees and the increasing strength of electromagnetic fields making life tough for the thoroughbreds of the sky.
“The pleasure of seeing something you’ve looked after for weeks on end come home is pretty indescribable, that’s what it’s all about,” Strudwick added.
The Orange club will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2019.