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Big boats battle it out for their clubs at Nagambie 

A sprinkling of rain greeted early risers on day six of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships at Lake Nagambie. While the overcast conditions saw rowers rug up in the chilly morning air, the racers breathed a sigh of relief as the forecast predicted the wind to stay moderate and steady throughout the day.  

The race of the day was the Open Women’s Coxless Quad Scull which was a nailbiter that saw the top three placegetters finish within three seconds of each other. Sydney Rowing Club kept their bow in front down the 2000m course, finishing fast to secure the Gold. Sydney University Boat Club put in a stellar second thousand to move up from fourth place, past UTS Haberfield, and into contention for the Silver Medal. Potentially leaving the sprint too late, the course ended before Sydney University could catch the ANU/Huon composite who secured the silver 0.98 seconds ahead of bronze medallists. 

Harriet Hudson of Sydney Rowing Club spoke about how special it was to win a Gold with a full club crew, saying “club rowing is about really getting around each other, you push each other to do your best because you’re not rowing for yourself but rowing for your club.”  

The Australian Federation of Old Oarsmen Trophy for the Under 23 Men’s Coxed Eight was won by the crew from Melbourne University (MUBC), pushed to the line by the KAND/Griffith University composite crew, who took the silver by 1.75 seconds. The Melbourne University/Mosman composite overtook Mercantile RC in the second thousand to claim the Bronze. 

Seven-seat of the winning crew, Nick Smith, spoke about how much the win meant to the club, who talked about the growth MUBC had seen over the last year. “We got a lot of depth, but it says a lot more about the quality of guys we have here and how hard they train. It’s good to come from a squad that wasn’t in the best place 12 months ago to build something like this.” 

The Melbourne University success continued as a composite crew lead the field for the entire race, to claim victory in the Under 23 Women’s Coxed Eight. Mercantile Rowing Club took the silver, with the KAND Rowing Club composite coming third. 

Stroke of the winning crew Eliza Gaffney, newly selected in the national sweep squad, touched on how she felt about racing in the age category that she is still part of.  

“To go out in an Eight with girls who I’ve trained for Under 23 Australian Rowing Teams with, who I’ll now be on the senior team with and with girls who are from my club, it’s just a really exciting mix.” 

The PR3 Mixed Coxed Four was contested alongside the PR2 Mixed Double of Kathryn Ross of ANU and Simon Albury of Torrens Rowing Club, the smaller boat having a one minute 15 second handicap to race the faster moving fours. The named Australian Rowing Team crew in the Sydney University Composite crew pushed the double right to the line, but the experienced Paralympic combination held them off by half a length – both crews claiming the gold in their respective boat classes. 

The winning PR3 crew included three-time Summer and Winter Paralympian Jess Gallagher, a vision impaired athlete, who decided to take up rowing after her cycling pilot retired. She points to her success as an athlete as being from the support systems around her.

“I don’t ever consider myself an expert but I’ve been surrounded by some pretty amazing people who give me all of their expertise and skills and hopefully I can apply that on the water and get the performance to follow” Gallagher said.  

Nick Neales was also in the crew, and he spoke about the process to secure this national success, and what is coming next. “For us, nationals are a big one. It marks the end of the domestic season, ramping up towards the European season.  

“We take it in small increments, World Cup 1 and the International Para Regatta in Gavirate in May. The long-term aim is Paris in 2024, the Paralympics. That’s the goal.”  

After the race the CEO of Rowing NSW Margot Harley joined the dais and accepted the Bob Blake Shield on behalf of NSW as the State that had accumulated the most para-points over the course of the regatta.

The Open Men’s Coxed Eight Final was a highly anticipated showdown; MUBC dominated the race, claiming the club’s third gold medal for the day. The race for the silver was hot between Sydney University Boat Club and Sydney Rowing Club; Sydney Rowing Club managed a turn of speed to power through their rivals in the last 500m to claim the silver medal. 

Nick Vlachodimitropolous, stroke of the MUBC Eight, spoke about what the day’s success meant for the club, after racing in the Under 23 Eight earlier. “Everyone in the program is so incredibly hardworking, and we’ve got such great coaches. All the boys have been working for a win, the whole squad has, so it’s really special to be able to back up two awesome performances as a team.” 

The Open Women’s Coxed Eight capped off an incredibly successful morning for Melbourne University Boat Club with the composite combination winning the Gold Medal by five seconds. Sydney University Boat Club claimed the Silver while University of Queensland won Bronze.  

The win was special for Sydney RC athlete and Olympian Sarah Hawe, who talked about the importance of the elite athletes keeping connections with their clubs. “It’s the most special thing you can do, race for your club,” she said.  

“Normally when you’re training with the top end of the country, you never get the chance to go back to your club and give back and row with the younger rowers to help them try and bring their rowing up so it’s quite special to come together in an all-club crew and race for the club.” 

The Open Men’s Quadruple Scull created a highlight event of the day; the Australian National University Composite crew featured three out of four of the Men’s Quadruple Scull Tokyo Olympic Bronze Medallists. The experienced Quad put on a show to storm into first place. Griffith University Surfers Paradise claimed the Silver Medal, while North Esk composite pipped UTS Haberfield at the post, securing the Bronze by less than half a second. 

This is Olympic Bronze and Silver Medallist in the boat class Cameron Girdlestone’s only race on the program and he enjoyed the hit out with such a high-quality crew. “It was good fun to be back with the guys”. 

The afternoon’s sprint heats and finals had the bank filled with parents and supporters, with biggest cheers coming from the winners of the Schoolboy and Schoolgirl sprints. Xavier College had the crowd on their feet with the tightest of margins winning them the Gold over the 500m distance, while Genazzano FCJ College were dominant, a length clear to the Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School who took the Silver.