Bruce Duck had a big decision to make.
As the son of a butcher from Junee, who had just completed a boarding school stint at Goulburn in the early 1960s, his first experience in the family business left him in no doubt he and the meat industry were not going to have a long-term future together.
Adept with numbers, accountancy appealed and after a period of study he soon landed a job at the Junee Ex-Services Club in 1963.
But his tenure wasn't long and after a series of knock-backs for similar club industry jobs in Sydney, Bathurst and Batemans Bay, he spotted an advertisement for an assistant secretary-manager role at the Commercial Club in Albury.
Founded in 1902 as a men's only business-based club, the Commercial Club's peak patronage came during wool sales in the wool exchange building it created in the 1930s on the Dean Street frontage previously occupied by a pub and blacksmith.
Mr Duck landed the newly created job in the club tucked away behind the wool exchange in 1972.
But an unbroken stint of 48 years at the Commercial Club, which officially ended this week with a retirement function, could have been ever so brief.
He found his boss unwelcoming and briefly left before being asked back by club president, Graham Harper, and within months found himself in the top job.
Mr Duck was aged only 25 and became the youngest secretary-manager of a NSW licensed club.
When he started the club had just 24 staff and 14 poker machines with one of the many early changes made on his watch being women allowed to become members.
Today the club is one of the city's biggest employers with 300-plus staff, 28,000 members, 620 poker machines, first-class dining and sporting facilities, non-stop entertainment at its Dean Street base and a golf club it rescued from an uncertain future in 2002.
Mr Duck immediately reversed a loss from previous financial years to a profit of $90,000 in his first year in the top job and the club has never recorded a loss or a profit below that figure in his near half-century in charge.
Last financial year the club's profit was $3.2 million with one of the best trading years being 2015 with a profit of $4.4 million.
One of his early success stories was convincing a board of directors to take out a $100,000 loan, payable over three years, for a string of improvements including access to the mixed lounge from Dean Street, updated facade and signage and 10 more poker machines.
Resistance was real within a largely conservative board including a treasurer, who was a bank manager with zero appetite for the idea.
But Mr Duck persisted and with the backing of club president an approach was made to a rival bank and approved.
In coming decades, the club would undertake more than $80 million in capital works with strategic land purchases along Stanley and Elizabeth streets allowing the building's footprint to expand significantly from its modest beginnings.
A golden period of the club was undoubtedly the 1980s before the introduction of poker machines in Victoria by the Joan Kirner-led Victorian Labor Government.
The Commercial Club was crowned the NSW Licensed Club of the Year in 1988, helped in no small part by becoming the first club in regional NSW to break-through the $1 million profit barrier by posting a year-ending result of $1.3 million in the black.
The club took the introduction of poker machines into Victoria head-on with an increased focus on entertainment, functions and hospitality when others along the Murray River began to flounder.
In Albury, two licensed clubs fell by the wayside, the Hume Country Club and Lavington Sports Club, but the Commercial Club went from strength to strength.
Its rescue of the golf club remains one of the biggest decisions in the club's 117-year history.
The Albury course, where the legendary Jack Nicklaus once shot a round of 68, was bleeding financially.
The writing was on the wall in 2000-01 when it posted a $52,000 loss.
But a major public asset was retained when the Commercial Club stepped in late in 2002.
After initially serving under Mr Harper, the outgoing chief executive also worked alongside other presidents including Tom Gordon, Alan Foster, Reg Morley, Barry Hart, Ted Langdon, Barry Edmunds and most recently Graeme Edgar.
Mr Edmunds, who spent 10 years as president, said Mr Duck had left a massive legacy.
"It was a simple little club going nowhere when he first came to Albury," he said.
"There is no doubt when he took over the club prospered under his guidance.
"He had amazing vision, undoubted passion and never stopped coming up with ideas to make the place better.
"He also had the courage to put those ideas into practice."
They first met in the 1970s when Mr Edmunds worked nearby the Commercial Club and by the time he had joined the board and became president the club was in another growth phase.
It launched an aggressive marketing push which included sponsorships of the Albury Gold Cup, Bandits basketball teams, Cricket Albury-Wodonga, Albury Thunder rugby league team and Margaret Court Tennis Academy.
Former Albury Racing Club chief executive John Miller said the Commercial Club's backing enabled the club's flagship event to rise to another level from increased prizemoney.
"I was fortunate that Bruce and Barry Edmunds understood racing and were really keen to see the Gold Cup become a premier event for the city," Mr Miller said.
"Without the Commercial Club sponsorship the cup prizemoney would not have got to where it was and that certainly resulted in better quality racing and gaining listed status for the race."
Horse racing remains an enduring passion for Mr Duck along with rugby league, which included a playing stint for the now defunct Albury Blues when he first moved to town.
Mr Edmunds said the president-CEO relationship had some robust times.
"We had plenty of disagreements and he will agree we both made mistakes," he said.
"He wasn't perfect because I haven't met anyone who is, but as far as the club industry goes he was as close to perfect as you can get.
"People often ask me what it was like working with Bruce and I always say he was very tough, but very fair.
"If ever I was in the trenches or had my back to the wall, he would be the first bloke I would call."
Mr Duck has spent a large part of his working life alongside son Jeff and daughter Jackie, who have risen to senior roles at the club with combined experience of around 70 years.