After more than four decades of service, including a quarter of a century in one town, Sergeant Phil McClure has retired.
Earlier this month the cornerstone of Hopetoun's law enforcement traded in his badge and gun for some sunscreen and a sand wedge, ending 25 years as the town's police officer.
Sgt McClure joined the force as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, moving from regional New South Wales to suburban Glen Waverley in 1979.
"I always wanted to join the police force - it was a goal of mine since I was four-year-old," Sgt McClure said.
"Originally I tried to join the NSW police force, but they had height and build restrictions; I was half an inch over in my chest measurement, and I was told to come back in 12 months. The local policeman recommended that I look at applying in Victoria, so I did."
Sgt McClure celebrated his 21st birthday at the academy before starting his first stint at a large station in Melbourne's East.
"I did three months in Caulfield and then I was lucky to land a job at the Flemington Station for five years," he said.
"We worked a lot of the racing events around Flemington, the trots at Moonee Valley and even the football at Windy Hill.
"The thing that attracted me to Flemington was the fact it was a busy metropolitan station with probably the best villains in Victoria."
The "villains" included some of the state's most notorious criminals, including the Carlton Crew, the Gypsy Joker motorcycle gang and the Pettingill family.
"I was in and around the inner-suburban stations throughout the 1980s, all the way until 1996," Sgt McClure reflected.
"In 1990, I was promoted to sergeant and headed to Campbellfield for two years.
"I spent a lot of time in the Western suburbs, which is where some of the biggest criminals in Victoria lived at the time.
"There was plenty of work and great members."
Ready for a change
After dealing with criminals of varying sizes, Sgt McClure knew he needed a change. So he looked back at his home for inspiration.
"I got to the stage where I was burnt out and needed to recharge my batteries," he said.
"I was attracted to Hopetoun because it is very similar to where I grew up; I grew up in a little place called Carrathool, which is over near Hay in New South Wales.
"Initially I only intended to stay two or three years, but I ended up liking it."
Sgt McClure said living in a town with less than 1000 people had its advantages and disadvantages.
"It was very different to what I imagined; a lot harder than in Melbourne in some ways," he said.
"In Melbourne, you work your eight-hour shift and then handed over to the next sergeant, but in Hopetoun, it's a 24-hour job.
"Everyone knows who you are. It's a highly respected job in the community ... and you have to set an example."
One of Sgt McClure's favourite memories as a police officer dates back to 1983 when Australia won the America's Cup.
"I was working that night, and we were called into to work along Lygon St. In those days when something significant happened, everyone would go to Lygon Street to celebrate.
"The whole block was closed - from Queensbury Street to Johnston - and it was just packed with thousands of people. Alcohol was flying, but there was not one bad word.
"Everyone was hugging each other - even us, we were getting hugged and kissed.
"I've never seen anything before or since that has equalled it.
"It's still the most amazing scene I've seen."
After four decades in the police force, Sgt McClure acknowledges that there's been a lot of changes over the years - some good, others not so much.
"We're heading towards a far more mobile version of policing," he said.
"In my days there were foot patrols, but these days they want to keep us mobile in the vehicles.
"Now you see superstations that cover numerous suburbs - it has forced the closure of the smaller, suburban stations.
"The good thing in the general philosophy of policing hasn't changed."
With no uniform in sight, Sgt McClure is ready to relax with some holidays and a bit of recreation.
"I'm eyeing off some rounds of golf," he said with a laugh.
"After six months of time off and settling into my new life, I'll probably look for a part time job that I can do two or three days a week where I've got no responsibility at all."
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