Catchin’ up with Leah Saunders

This week we catch up with one of SRC’s best performed athletes over the last few seasons, Leah Saunders. With national selections set to be determined over the coming month, it’s no surprise we met Leah on her way to training at the Club.

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Leah Saunders


Waiting for the 504 bus from Drummoyne to Abbotsford brings into acute focus the failures of man. While the current vanguard speak of disruption – the phrase du jour of the MBA set – the promise of revolution is yet to materialise in the core public services.


For the huddled masses of the Victoria Road bus shelter this predicament has reached a desperate nadir. Having arrived with hope and expectation of a timely arrival, the diverse group is now unified in silent prayer to an unnamed deity with whom alone rests the power to carry them home. The timetable, that ten minutes ago was revered, is now keenly avoided lest its wanton heresy provoke an ill reaction from the god of transport.


Hope stirs. Lurching towards the stop is an unmistakably formless Sydney bus. It travels north on the new river crossing, which curves coquettishly into Iron Cove in stark contrast to the efficient symmetry of the old bridge alongside. The would be patrons lean forward with heady expectation, even the children can sense the excitement of the moment and their cries are subdued. The winning numbers come into view – 506: North Ryde.


The lucky few leap forward and clamber for position, once comrades, now rivals for the first steps of security as the doors open. The driver has a lean and hungry look. Bearded, he stares ahead unblinking as a few likely residents of the Gladesville projects board the 506. His visage speaks to atrophy of mind and spirit.


As the defeated return to their pen, a new figure appears on the sidewalk, untroubled by the vicissitudes that have befallen the incumbents. It is the determined face of SRC’s own Leah Saunders. She is on her way to the club for a training session following a shift at work. Training for a seat in an Australian crew in an Olympic year is a high calling and her sense of purpose is in strong contrast to the others slumped in waiting about her.


It is a truly difficult path to the honours that are sought, and Leah carries a heavy workload in pursuit of the goal. She has recently returned to Sydney following a national training camp in the Southern Highlands, where both sweep and sculling training has complemented gym and aerobic capacity building.


As yet few clues have been forthcoming from the Rowing Australia bureaucracy as to what form the selected squad will take. A familiar question hangs over the eights, with neither the men’s nor women’s boat having secured selection. If the eight were to travel to Europe to seek selection, far greater opportunities would be available. For Leah, her highlights during the 2014/15 season were achieved in the sculling classes, so possibilities remain in the quad boat.


The selection timetable is long and tortuous. Even now, there are many rivers to cross. An omnibus series will be conducted for aspirants at the upcoming Small Boats Regatta in Penrith, before the NSW Championships are used to reduce the squad for the Selection Regatta the following week. This follows untold official and unofficial tests of boat speed noted by officials over the quadrennial.


The famed grand cru relies on both the quality of the grapes and the stewardship of the winemaker. Leah is on time and ready to depart, but whether the bus will come cannot be known.