The Small Boats Regatta is always a major selection event as athletes return from summer training for the first major competition of the New Year. This year, however it wasn’t just NSW coaches cycling the banks of SIRC, as national team aspirants were required to race in advance of the official selection event in a few weeks’ time.
Sydney has a number of athletes in contention for national team selection and, depending on Rowing Australia’s decision with respect to eights qualification, the men’s heavyweight sweep squad looks likely to hold the greatest SRC seat potential for Rio 2016.
Sydney’s contingent has had a divergent preparations over the summer, with some at the National Training Center of Excellence in Canberra and others at the club’s camp in the Southern Highlands, while James Chapman trained with new partner Nick Purnell on the Manning River and its tributaries.
The incumbent pair of Turrin and Lloyd were clear winners in the elite pair, finishing over a length ahead of the experienced Victorians Josh Dunkley-Smith and Josh Wilkes-Booth. Just behind the hyphenated pair were SRC’s Hicks and Moore, leading some to hypothesise that selectors may opt for a Joshua three in the national team. Also making the A-final were the vestal combination of Chapman and Purnell, a satisfying result for their first time together.
In the single events, Leah Saunders finished 3rd in the C Final and Chris Morgan continued his encouraging form with a third place in the A final won by young Sasha Belonogoff of Sydney Uni. Morg’s time of 6.57, while unremarkable on paper, was very sound given the tempestuous conditions in Penrith on the day.
Ultimately the storm front moving from the West resulted in the cancellation of the afternoon racing, but not before the Sydney under 21 squad delivered an impressive set of results in the singles and pairs. With State Youth eight selection soon to be decided, this was a timely performance from Coach JB’s squad of young lads.
Full results are available here.
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.
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.
The annual Taree Summer of Fun Regatta is always a highlight for the athletes of SRC, as the best and the rest from around the state gather on the tempestuous Manning River. This year flood warnings had preceded SRC’s arrival, however as it eventuated the waters subsided and the only overflow evident was that from the Sydney cup of success.
Day one of the Taree regatta was a wild affair. As always the initial marking of territory sparked controversy, as clubs sought to lay claim to prize tracts of land through various demonstrations of dominance. A foray from the Penrith club into the traditional acreage of the Balmain club led to the subsequent displacement of Leichhardt, Newcastle University and Glebe from their preferred positions causing much angst amongst the proletariat. Fortunately the gentry of SRC were as ever landed in the prime position thanks to the efforts of Captain Pauli Coates and Ray Armstrong.
The impressive land and property holdings of Sydney, combined with a choice selection of labour inputs and strong entrepreneurial spirit saw the club perform to the extreme of its productive capacity once racing commenced. This was despite an early setback caused by the withdrawal of Hugh McLeod (back strain) from the A single, an entry those using the accrual method of accounting had already booked as an SRC win when the draw was released. Such disappointment was but a distant memory when the men’s B singles took the course, with the saturnine mood displaced by jubilant wins to Brenner, Goldstein and Giles.
The mixed quads proved to be a swingers event, as Sydney notched couple of wins and a couple of defeats. Nonetheless all competitors left satisfied that they had thrown their keys into the ring and given it their best shot. Following the day’s racing the SRC contingent separated for the evening. Some gathered at Hugh McLeod’s new residence in Taree where a wholesome meal was provided, while others hit the Taree main street to enjoy its famous nightlife. Fortunately there were no reports of misadventure this year, perhaps due to some notable non-attendances amongst the touring party.
Day two began with a flurry of Sydney wins, headlined by Richard Martin and Ken Ambler in the masters eight in a composite with the Mosman club. Mosman have long been the standard bearers for men’s masters rowing in NSW so it was a great opportunity for Sydney to share in their success. This marked the beginning of an incredible run of seven consecutive wins for the club, spanning the women’s B pair of Emily Partridge and Madison Brown to the men’s D grade single of Christian Pezo. This statistical anomaly would soon correct itself however, as the men’s open four suffered defeat after the unfortunate withdrawal of senior member Hugh McLeod (knee strain).
The foursome of Fiona Martin, Deb Church, Kaye Smythe and Dorothy De George were a constant force over the weekend and had a dashing win in the quad on Saturday. The men’s masters’ squad received a rousing pre-race address from Dallas Smith, after which the double of Paul Coates and Andy Goldstein duly saluted. Perhaps the most exciting race of the weekend was in the men’s pair, where Stu McDonald and Jack Farthing rallied from 2 lengths behind at the 250 to finish over the top of Glebe. The lightweight pair of Gav Parcsi and Matt Bladen was close behind in 3rd.
Following the completion of racing, the traditional whole of club barbeque was held on the course. As always this was a fine opportunity for athletes, coaches and supporters to share stories and contaminants over the braai. Gradually however the impending tariffs of the final days racing began to weigh on the mind and an early night was called.
The final day of the regatta continued in much the same vein as the first two, apart from the weather, which turned far more pleasant facilitating greater use of the club recovery pool.
The B quad of Sara McDonald, Brianna Caputo, Emily Partridge and Madison Brown were worthy winners in the morning, taking a comfortable 2 length margin over the Leichhardt club. Gav Parcsi then atoned for earlier defeats with a resolute win in the lightweight single. Unfortunately the spectre of injury again hung over the club as substitutions were required in Masters and Open grade quads due to the unavailability of Hugh McLeod (rib strain).
In keeping with the latest directives from Rowing Australia, the SRC crews embraced this disruption and the replacements excelled at the new metrics of success determined – Kurtis Aroney anchored the open quad in its win, while Anthony ‘the magic man’ Mujic was conscripted from Newcastle Uni for a tour of duty in masters quad.
As ever, the regatta was a great success and was much enjoyed by the entire Sydney contingent. Congratulations must go to Manning River Rowing Club and Rowing NSW for their outstanding strategic direction and client focused approach.
In the first week of December coaches Donovan Cech and Lachlan Carter ran a women’s rowing camp at the Nepean River. The aim of the camp was to enhance technical skills and improve their physical ability in the lead up to the racing season.
Leah Saunders (Senior A)
Rachael See (Senior A)
Madison Brown (U23)
Emily partridge (U23 LWT)
Gemma Dane (U23 LWT)
Brianna Caputo (U21)
Bianca Riley (U19)
Harriet Hudson (U19)
Romola Davenport (U19)
Georgia Bradley (U19)
We had a good group of girls with a healthy mix from under 19 to Senior A level rowers and there were a couple of lightweights in the mix as well. We were privileged to welcome Gemma Dane from Lower Clarence who came to join us for the week. Gemma may only be 52kg but she knows how to get a hold of her legs off the front. Gemma’s contribution to the camp was greatly appreciated is she is always welcome.
Our accommodation was at Don’s house which overlooks a spectacular view of the Nepean River in Leonay. I was not aware that Penrith had serenity, click but this place had heaps of it. So much serenity. One night we had dinner at the local Thai joint ‘Ping Kun’ where we shared 10 meals and enough coconut rice to choke a donkey. The coconut rice really is to die for so don’t feel bad about the donkey. It’s amazing.
Throughout the camp each athlete made solid technical gains as they learned more about feeling the run of the boat and refining the skills a rower needs in their hands. Everyone had an opportunity to row with each other and jump into each of the sculling boats (1X, 2X and 4X). This ensured that they could learn how to adapt to each other and row in different combinations which is essential for selection into crew boats.
Having the experience and professionalism of our senior leader Leah Saunders was great for the development of the younger U19 girls. Leah is the clubs most successful female athlete and has so much to offer anyone at SRC. The camp was good preparation for Leah as she goes into Olympic selection time trials this week so we wish her all the best of luck.
We really have a good range of girls throughout the shed now and are looking to build on this as we aim to send an U19 women’s 4X to Henley Royal Regatta for the first time. Harriet Hudson from Queensland joined our U19 squad and was welcomed with open arms. She added great personality and positivity to the group and is showing early signs of athleticism after only a week of training with us.
Our U19 4X of Romy, Harriet, Georgia and Bianca finished the camp with a great long row in the 4X and had a chance to race it at the Reindeer Regatta the next day. With only HSC fitness behind them, Romy, Harriet and Bianca really appreciated Georgia Bradley’s hard work over the winter as she is making the step from U17 to U19 next year. Georgia’s role in the 3 seat was to back Harriet up and provide her with plenty of good chat to keep her revved up throughout the race. Romy and Bianca in the bow pair did a fantastic job of picking up the crew at the front with sharp blade entries and good calls to keep the opposition to only a canvass lead right to the end.
With no confidence in her toe, Harriet steered a perfect course and set up a sweet rhythm for the girls to follow. Hearing “YEAH SYDNEY” from Bianca in the bow seat was music to my ears as I watched these girls fight to the end as if to say “if anyone is going to beat us, they are going to suffer doing it”.
A narrow defeat is usually disappointing but this one seemed like a victory as they performed well above expectation. Good on you girls for putting yourselves out there and havin’ a crack. The girls ended up winning the mugs as the winning crew was ineligible for this race so we’ll take that. After seeing this race, I am really looking forward to seeing this group develop over the coming season.
Leah Saunders won her single in convincing style. In the spirit of Christmas at the Reindeer regatta, Leah’s red nose bow ball was the first to cross the line for the day and also for Sydney to set the club up on a winning vibe. She later won the pair by about one furlong. That’s a bloody long way.
To help integrate the young girls with the senior girls, Bianca Riley combined with Charlotte Trent (U16) in the Open women’s 2X. Bianca showed great leadership from the bow and they showed great discipline to fight back on the 3rd placed crew and row through to claim the 3rd spot. This is the sort of relentlessness that you see in world class athletes so I was very impressed with Charlotte’s composure in such a pressured situation. To see this in a young school level athlete is really exciting. Well done girls on a great race.
We had four girls in the final of the U19 single at the NSW sprint Championships. Romy, Harriet, Bianca and Georgia claimed 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th respectively. As this was Georgia’s fifth sprint race for the day, she was quite fatigued. These included a win in her U17 1X and 3rd with Romy in the U19 2X. Brianna Caputo had a cracking race claiming 2nd in the U21 1X. Gemma Dane claimed 2nd in the U23 1X which was great to see as she slipped down the outside lane.
Overall we had a very successful camp and finished on a high with great results in the regattas over the weekend. Coming up we have our annual training camp in Taree where we look to make more gains as we approach the racing season.
Festive spirits may have been in the air, but the idyllic Christmas experience was far removed in the heady heat at the 2015 Reindeer Regatta. SIRC came alive with lively Christmas costumes and North Pole paraphernalia. The competition was never in question, there of course, and no-one let the festival fanfare alter their game. This was typified in the debut event of the regatta as Leah Saunders won the under 23 Lightweight Women’s Scull in classic form. She was followed shortly after by second and third placings of fellow under 23 troubadours in the lightweight coxless pair featuring Messrs Boakes, Haskard, Courts and Wells. The under16 men’s scull procured some noteworthy results as well with Timothy ‘Tuner’ Trent coming first over St. George’s alliteration alumnus Konrad Kluck.
Two divisions, two Master’s Doubles, two shiny medals; the gentrified gentleman of SRC proved their worth by taking home both titles. Georgia Bradley came a resounding third in the under 21 women’s scull, as did the aforementioned under 23 pair rowers who snagged a cheeky W in the A/B Men’s Coxless fours. This four-man ferocity produced a second placing in the Men’s under 16 coxed quad, where novice rower Lucas ‘Good-Song’ Chabo employed his skills and earned some well-deserved stripes. Maxwell Duignan and Maximilian ‘Cheer’ Brenner both topped UTS for first place in the under 21 men’s Scull. Two consecutive firsts ensued as the afternoon matured: Charlotte ‘Expectation’ Trent (women’s under 16 scull) and athletes West, Lloyd Jones, Greenslade and Brighton (master’s coxless four).
Fiona Martin, Kaye Smythe, Deb Church and Dorothy De George made a classy come-from-behind win in the women’s master’s quad scull which show cased their many years of experience behind a sculling blade.
The afternoon was graced by possibly the most decked out coxed quad at the entire regatta. Spectators applauded as a coxswain dressed as St. Nicholas drifted by encased in a mock-up sleigh around his seat. The big man was accompanied by an entourage of antler-toting rowers with neon blue streamers attached to their riggers. The spectacle helped enliven a taxing day of races and reminded everyone of the Christmas carousal that exemplified this auspicious regatta. Gavin Parcsi honoured his female counterpart’s success by besting the Lightweight Men’s Scull. Lucas ‘Dettol’ Giles and Max Brenner blazed to glory in the under 21 double scull alongside a fellow Sydney crew in the next division. A successful and festive day was had at that most prestigious of race courses in this most auspicious regatta, commemorating the season break for the holiday of the year.
Story by: John Bivell
Hugh McLeod completed a stunning form reversal on Sunday, winning the prestigious men’s open single scull title at the NSW Sprint Championships. After a long period of exodus, McLeod’s return to the elite ranks of sculling left onlookers marvelling and provided a real lift for club mates a SRC enjoyed another day in the sun at Penrith.
Only a small group from Sydney backed up the next day for the Sprint Championships following a gruelling Reindeer Regatta on Saturday. Amongst them was Hugh McLeod despite many rowing commentators declaring the former lightweight a spent force in the small boat.
A win in Newcastle last month was dismissed as an easy kill on local waters, while fresher in the minds of Penrith locals was his failure over 2000m the day before An ignominious defeat renewed calls for McLeod to accept a gracious retirement and accolades for past glories.
Hugh, however was keeping the faith, casting his elephantine memory back five years to when he was crowned fastest man in NSW. Students of boat speed have long argued that the art form is one not dulled by the winds of time, but since Liam James took the title so memorably as the SRC regatta of 2011, few thought Hugh could climb the mountain again.
Such predictions were made a folly on Sunday as McLeod turned the heckles into hails in comprehensively winning the men’s open single, and in doing so earning the right to challenge James for the title of fastest man in NSW.
Against a blue chip field of scullers from across the state, McLeod was dominant in recording a length victory described as evidence of divine intervention in the sport of rowing.
The win in the feature event had a telling impact on the rest of the SRC squad, with performance lifting beyond rational expectations to include wins by Georgia Bradley in the under 17 single and Max Duignan in the under 19 single.
All representatives of the club distinguished themselves, a feat attributable to the senior leadership in the club.
This week we catch up with one of the newer members of the SRC fraternity, Dr Cam Brewer. Since Cam’s move from Western Australia last year the men’s squad have found an extra gear, a testament to his skills in and out of the boat. We caught up with Cam at the club recently to find out more about the man who has become an integral member of the men’s sweep squad.
The SRC annual dinner was held last Saturday night at Dedes Restaurant in Abbotsford. The guest speaker Kitty Chiller captivated the crowd with her insights into the preparations of the Australian team for the Rio games and her background as a world class modern pentathlete.