British broadcaster, Prof. Neil Oliver takes on the role of spinner in a two-up game at the site of the Canberra Services Club. Photo: Graham Tidy
The sound of pennies spinning in the air rang out as thousands of enthusiasts countrywide continued the Anzac Day tradition of two-up.
But you would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate group of players than at the site of the Canberra Services Club, where punters reflected on their former clubhouse as much as on the diggers.
Almost three years since the club was burnt to the ground, long-time members and newcomers, including Scottish TV presenter Professor Neil Oliver, gathered at the site yet again to test the powers of probability at the annual two-up meet-up.
Punters of all ages often clutching a tinny in one hand and a fistful of notes in the other braved the overcast day to egg on their mates.
Although the crowd was only a couple hundred strong by mid-afternoon, their cheers, jeers and boos could be heard blocks away.
The mood was jovial, but memories of the former clubhouse were never far from the minds of the regulars who meet each year to take a punt.
Life member Kerry Emery recalled the day he received an early-morning phone call from a taxi driver friend saying he better get down to the club fast if he ever wanted to see it again, as smoke billowed from the burning building.
''She went up like a tinder box,'' Mr Emery said.
''We loved the place; we had a very dedicated team of people.''
For their modest annual fee, members have access to the Canberra Bowling Club in Forrest, but Mr Emery, like most former Services Club members, said Anzac Day was the only time they saw each other.
''I never miss one,'' he said. ''Everyone wants to know the developments with the new club, but it's a bit up in the air.''
Fellow member David Armstrong was waiting for his second punt, after a first attempt at ''testing the laws of logic, probability and chance'' saw him come up second best.
His friend Scott Grant was having a bit more luck.
After spending last Anzac Day in the middle of the Nullarbor Plains, he said he had discovered the two-up tradition was important right across the country.
''It's that release we have as Australians,'' he said. ''Australians will bet against two flies going up a wall.''
Loyalty means membership renewals remain strong each year.
And the club's president Greg Ranse said membership was growing quite steadily as there was a lot of interest in the the lead-up to next year's Gallipoli centenary, despite the club operating without a permanent home.
Mr Ranse was optimistic about continuing negotiations to rebuild at a new site, but said a possible merger with the Canberra Club could take longer.
''We're in an exciting era,'' he said. ''We're going to [start from scratch] … and no other club in the ACT has had the chance to do that in years.''