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Rowing Victoria

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Rowing in a young Victoria
  3. Formation of the Association
  4. Growth of the Sport 1876-1889
  5. Years of great success 1890-1899
  6. The rise of Henley on the Yarra 1900-1909
  7. The War Years 1910-1919
  8. Women's rowing and the modern era 1920-1929
  9. The Depression years 1930-1939
  10. War and rebuilding 1940-1949
  11. Expansion years 1950-1959
  12. The search for international success 1960-1969
  13. Combining the Associations and lightweight success 1970-1979
  14. The new national program 1980-1989
  15. Golden years 1990-1999
  16. Professionalism 2000-2009
  17. Yet More Growth 2010-2019


  1. Life Membership and other important awards
  2. Patrons and Presidents
  3. Office Bearers
  4. Clubs and their histories
  5. The Oarsmen's Centotaph and WWI Roll of Honour
  6. WWII Roll of Honour
  7. Premierships
  8. State Championships
  9. Hall of Fame Inductees
  10. Victorian Olympians
  11. International representation
  12. Intercolonial and Interstate Racing
  13. School rowing
  14. University rowing
  15. Personalities of the sport

15. Personalities of the sport

Surname W

Those appearing below are:

  1. Eric Waller
  2. William Waterfield
  3. Jack Webster, South Melbourne
  4. Pam Westendorf, Dimboola/MUBC
  5. Leeanne Whitehouse, Dimboola/MUBC
  6. Noel Wilkinson, Banks
  7. Sir Hartley Williams
  8. Michael S Williams, Mercantile
  9. Henry Woolnough, Elswick
  10. Tim Wright, Wendouree/Ballarat


Eric Waller

Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club

Eric has been instrumental in Ballarat not only gaining major aquatic events for the city, but successfully managing them so that the events return to the city. The events include National Rowing Championships over many years, National University Rowing Championships, 2012 World Masters Rowing Championships and the 2014 FISA World Masters Championships.

Eric has served as President of the Ballarat Rowing Association since 1984 and has been responsible for championing many improvements at Lake Wendouree including the lengthening and widening of the rowing course, the building of a judges box, creating several buoying systems over the years and purchasing the current buoying system.

In recent years as President of the Ballarat Rowing Association, he has also been instrumental as an advocate for the City of Ballarat to undertake significant works at Lake Wendouree following years of severe drought. This significant investment has brought the old 1956 Olympic course up to modem standards and restored this vital community asset for the use and enjoyment of all Ballarat residents and visitors. He is a member of the Lake Wendouree Aquatic Association which controls the use of Lake Wendouree.
Eris is also the course manager for the Ballarat Public Schools Regatta (Head of the Lake) and is the first contact with school officials for the event. During recent drought years, Eric co-ordinated the relocation of the event to Nagambie and Geelong, and was an integral part of the celebration of the event's 100th anniversary, back on Lake Wendouree in 2012.

In 1990, Eric was the recipient of the Ballarat Sportsmen's Club Mackenzie Award, an award presented to a person who has made a major contribution to Ballarat sport. In 2012, Eric was inducted into the Ballarat Sports Hall of Fame. In summary, some of Waller's achievements at Ballarat-level include:

  • President of the Ballarat Rowing Association since 1984;
  • President of the Victorian Country Rowing Association since 1989;
  • Course manager for the Ballarat Public Schools Regatta;
  • Member of the Lake Wendouree Management Committee;
  • Spokesman for rowing in Ballarat;
  • Led the many improvements to the course at Ballarat, including the current dredging and buoying system; and
  • Successfully negotiated to bring many major aquatic events to Ballarat.

Eric's work at the local level is also demonstrated with his lifelong involvement with the Wendouree-Ballarat Rowing Club. He joined the club in 1957 as a beginner. (Eric's interest in boats, rowing and Lake Wendouree was created during his time as a primary school student at Pleasant Street State School which is situated 50 metres from the south shore of the lake.) Eric had a short but successful rowing career, winning novice and maiden class events over a two year period. In 1959, he became Club Captain, a position which he held for 20 years prior to becoming President in 1979: the latter position he held until 2015. During his two-decade term as Club Captain, he coached and watched over many winning crews including "The Cockies Eight" in the 1960s which won 11 eight oared events. His efforts in this period resulted in several Victorian Junior and Country Club Premierships and he coached crews at both Victorian and National Championships.

During Eric's years as captain of the Club, it experienced a 'golden era' in all aspects of the sport; membership, finances, race wins, maintenance of the clubhouse and growth in the fleet of boats.

As President, the Club has spawned Olympic medallists including Gary Gullock in 1984 and Rachael Taylor in 2000 and World Champions including Emily Martin.

Eric has facilitated schools rowing with the club housing boats from Ballarat High School and Ballarat Grammar School at times when their boat houses were being rebuilt, as well as providing boats for new schools to become involved.

Further to his tireless work at a local level, Waller has been an integral member of state and national bodies and administrator of events, including:

  • An elected board member of Rowing Victoria for 18 years and Vice-President;
  • The inaugural and continuing Field of Play Manager for Rowing Victoria, which has led to great innovation and improvement of regatta courses and standards in Victoria. This voluntary role involves Eric driving some 35,000kms each year to Victorian regattas and ensures that all events comply with safety standards and regulation to provide a safe and enjoyable experience to all involved
  • Has introduced the requirement of life saving support at all Rowing Victoria regattas, which has been adopted by Rowing Australia at all its regattas;
  • Field of Play Manager for the eight national championships, run by Victoria including the first national regatta held in Ballarat since the drought in May 2012;
  • President of the Victorian Country Rowing Association from 1989;
  • Has had significant input into the National Rowing Championships in all other states since 1962, with field of play or boat driving organisational responsibilities;
  • Has created an association of skilled boar drivers who operated at every National Rowing Championships; and
  • Has had important operational tasks at the 1990 World Rowing Championships, 2000 Olympic Games and the 2012 World Masters Games.

For his efforts, he has been awarded:

  • Life membership of Rowing Victoria Inc
  • The Rowing Victoria Kath Bennett Award for outstanding service to the sport
  • The Old Oarsmen and Women's Association prestigious Tom Rodda Award

Whilst he has a long list of achievements and contributions, he is also widely liked, approachable, good spirited and performs all these voluntary activities with a deep love of the sport.

Andrew Guerin 2013

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William Waterfield

Melbourne Rowing Club
Bill Waterfield was the administrative backbone of Rowing Victoria for decades.

1967-70 - Hon Ass Secretary of RV
1971-84 - Hon Secretary of RV
1984 - Life Member of RV
1986-96 - Secretary of RV
1997 - Hon Secretary of RV
In his spare time he was Hon Secretary of the Umpires Panel.

Bill's whole life revolved around the sport and his contribution was respected and welcomed. His work was throrough and accurate - the annual reports during the period of his time as secretary display this well.

Andrew Guerin 2011

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Jack Webster

South Melbourne Rowing Club
1946 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship bow – First
1947 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship bow – First
1948 – Olympic Games – Men’s Coxed Four bow - eliminated in repechage
1950 – British Empire Games – Men’s Coxless Pair bow – Gold

Joined his club in the early 1940’s and became very successful. He raced successfully in a pair with his club President Dudley Williamson for a long time. As a protected tradesman in WWII, a ships plumber, he was sent to Darwin. After the war, he continued his father’s plumbing business.

Webster has been the only Australian representative of his Club. He was a unique person and a true character of the sport. He was laconic as the photo demonstrates below, humorous, tough, head strong, individualistic and skilful to name some of his traits. He died after being run over by a train at a railway crossing and fellow club member Brian Dalton is famously quoted as saying “It took the bloody Geelong freight train to kill him.”

Andrew Guerin 2011

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Pam Westendorf

Dimboola Rowing Club and Melbourne University Ladies’ Rowing Club
1977 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship three seat - Fourth
1978 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship bow – First
1978 – World Championships – Women’s Eight five seat – Eighth
1979 –Interstate Women’s Four Championship three seat - First
1979 – World Championships – Women’s Four three seat - Fifth
1980 –Interstate Women’s Four Championship three seat - First
1980 – Olympic Games – Women’s Coxed Four three seat – Fifth
1981 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship three seat - First
1981 – World Championships – Women Coxless Pair stroke – Eighth
1982 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship stroke - First
1982 – World Championships – Women’s Coxless Pair stroke – Ninth
1983 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship stroke - First
1984 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship stroke - First
1987 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship three seat - First
1990 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship three seat - First
1990 – World Championships – Women’s Lightweight Four two seat - Silver
1991 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship three seat - First
1992 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship two seat - Third
1994 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship coach - Third
1994 – Trans Tasman Under 23 – Women’s Four coach
1995 – Interstate Women’s Youth Eight Championship co-coach – Fourth

Pam in the two seat of 1990 Lightweight Four

Pam is a champion rower who was successful both in the open and lightweight divisions. Also most importantly her longevity in the sport at the top level has been outstanding. Pam continued her life in the sport as a successful coach at club and school levels. Her contribution to the sport has therefore been significant.

Andrew Guerin 2013

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Leeanne Whitehouse

Dimboola Rowing Club and Melbourne University Ladies Rowing Club
1977 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship bow - Fourth
1984 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship bow – First
1985 – Interstate Women’s lightweight Four Championship bow - First
1987 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship bow - First
1987 – World Championships – Women’s Lightweight Four two seat – Fourth
1988 - Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship stroke – First
1988 – World Championships – Women’s Lightweight Four two seat – Silver

1988 Lightweight Four - Leeanne third from left

Leeanne started her rowing career as a schoolgirl in Dimboola where in 1974 with Pam Westendorf she first represented Victoria as a 16 year old in the New Zealand Colt series. After a five year absence from the sport she returned to rowing with Banks Rowing Club in 1982 and transferred to the Melbourne University Boat Club in 1987. Leeanne has continued to enjoy success as a master rower. She is married to fellow rower Andrew Ambrose formerly of Sydney Rowing club and a later member of the Mercantile rowing club where he enjoyed success in the 1987 Kings Cup crew. They now both enjoy watching their children row at regattas.

Andrew Guerin 2013

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Noel Wilkinson

Noel had enormous vitality which he applied to fund raising to his club Banks, his State Association, his National Association and his national Olympic Federation. In Victoria we are most grateful for establishing a sound financial base for the State Association which it has maintained ever since.

He was also treasurer for both Rowing Victoria (16 years) and Rowing Australia (13 years). During his time as Treasurer of Rowing Victoria, he managed the growth of capital funds from £4,000 to over $100,000. He was also treasurer of the Victorian Olympic Council for 7 years and was Appeal Co-ordinator for three Olympic Games raising much money for Olympic teams. He was awarded the AOF Order of Merit for such outstanding service to the Olympic movement. Noel’s name adorns the trophy for the Interstate Men’s Youth Eight Championship and well as the Victorian Youth eight Championship.
As was mentioned by many in Australia during his life, we were fortunate to have enjoyed the rare opportunity to have a “Wilkie” in our midst. He was a great supporter and tireless worker for the sport of rowing and died in 1992.

South Hawthorn Rowing Club (1927-30) then Banks Rowing Club

1957 – Interstate Championships Victorian team manager
1961 – Interstate Championships Victorian team manager
1962 – British Empire & Commonwealth Games – team manager
1965 – Interstate Championships Victorian team manager
1969 – Interstate Championships Victorian team manager
1970 – World Championships – team manager
1977-90 – Honorary Treasurer of ARC
1978 – World Championships – team manager
1980 – Olympic Games – administrative staff
1987 – Awarded AOF Order of Merit
1987-91 – Honorary Treasurer of Rowing Australia
1992 – Life member of Rowing Australia
Life member of Rowing Victoria – 16 years treasurer and 24 years on executive
Life member of Banks Rowing Club
FISA Umpire
He was fiercely an honorary contributor to the sport, never holding any remunerated position either in rowing or in any sporting area in his life. He was an example of volunteerism at its best.

Andrew Guerin 2010

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Sir Hartley Williams

(15 Oct 1843 - 11 Aug 1885)

Sir Hartley Williams was an Australian born, but British educated, early justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Upon the death of Sir Redmond Barry in 1881, he was appointed to the Supreme Court at a very young age.

Sir Hartley was President of the Association in 1883-84.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes: Known as the 'athlete judge', Williams was a great one for cycling. He was for some years an active member and executive committee-man of Victorian cycling, cricket and rowing associations and he also enjoyed boxing. In 1897 he injured his knee while walking in the Buffalo Ranges and for a time there was doubt that he would be able to resume his duties on the bench.


The ADB also notes: In 1893 Williams's reputation suffered when he wrote a letter to the Argus on 7 January protesting over the appointment of (Sir) John Madden as chief justice — he had expected to succeed to the post himself. He added that in future he would do no more than his 'bare duty'. The letter caused a sensation at the time, but in later years Williams spoke most warmly of Madden's work as chief justice. Despite the incident he was knighted in 1894. As an aside, Sir John Madden was a prominant member of the Melbourne Rowing Club.

Andrew Guerin 2016

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Michael S Williams

1947-55 - Vice-President Victorian Rowing Asociation
1955-73 - President Victoria Rowing Association

Michael Sydney Williams was born in Sydney on 24 March 1891. After attending South Melbourne College and St. Patrick's College, East Melbourne, he completed his education at Xavier College. Although a long time supporter and later committeeman of Essendon Football Club, his major sporting interest was rowing. He joined Mercantile after graduating as Master of Laws at Melbourne University. His busy and successful practice as a solicitor cut short his competitive career. He had the privilege of rowing number five in a famous Mercantile maiden eight in which (the later B.B.C. comedian) Dick Bentley, occupied the four seat. The crew was well placed going under Morell Bridge in its heat at Henley, when Bentley made one of his better wisecracks. The crew packed up laughing. Coach Bill Pitt on the bank was beside himself trying to restore the situation, and in his efforts managed to ride his bicycle into the river. It was the only crew which finished a race exhausted from laughter. "M.S." was always a regular Sunday morning oarsman, and in his latter years rowed three in 'Brooky's four' (Doug Brooke, Graeme Richardson, and Alex Dobbie, with Bert Spencer as cox). This crew was always ready to challenge, and quite often was known to beat oarsmen many years their junior.

Bow: Graeme Richardson, 2: Alex Dobbie, 3: Michael Williams, Str: Doug Brooke, Cox: Bert Spencer

A large jovial man with balding red hair, he was a dominating figure at regattas and at the King's Cup. He gave generously to rowing, and for many years presented the oars to successful Victorian crews. He became president of the V.R.A. in 1955 on the death of Arch Dobbie, and remained in this capacity until his death. He took a large part in the conduct
of the 1956 Olympic Garnes, even to the point of staging one of his celebrated 'Henley night' parties at his home. This was a gala event attended by Olympic oarsmen and officials from all nations.

He renewed international friendship, when he attended, as A.A.R.C. delegate, the F.I.S.A. meeting at Macon, France in 1958. He was also to the forefront at St. Catherines, Canada in 1968 when the Australian four won the Gold Medal.

He was very devoted to his family and one of his proudest moments was when his son, John, became Victorian sculling champion, and was placed second in the President's Cup in 1949.

His interest in rowing continued and he was a familiar figure on the riverbank to the time of his final illness in 1974. He was a memorable man with a very wide circle of friends from all fields of life. He was well known to rowing men of all States as well as overseas. He is well remembered by all who knew him.

His son-in-law, the Xavier and Mercantile oarsman, Hubert Frederico, (a appointed judge of the Family Law Court), rowed in the four King's Cup crews in the period 1957-1960. Freddy coached many a crew of Mercantile senior eights, as well as several King's Cup crews. In 1967, he took away as coach the successful four at the Empire Games. Freddy is well known as the coach who lifted Xavier to a high peak of rowing, the coveted Head-of-the-River just eluding his grasp on at least two occasions. Freddy went on to be an excellent President of the Victorian Rowing Association. Freddy's father, a judge of the County Court, was a prominent Melbourne University and Melbourne oarsman.

Field Rickards 1976 (updated in 2015)

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Henry Woolnough

Elswick Rowing Club
1860 – Melbourne Regatta Grand Challenge Cup, bow – First
1861 – Melbourne Regatta Grand Challenge Cup, two – First
1862 – Melbourne Regatta Grand Challenge Cup, two – First

The first amateur regatta to be conducted in Australia was the Melbourne Regatta in 1860. The founder of this regatta was 2010 inductee Prof Martin Irving. The Grand Challenge Cup for senior fours was the biggest amateur race in the land at that stage. The Elswick Rowing Club won the race in 1860, 1861 and 1862, thus winning the Challenge Cup outright. The three crews comprised four oarsmen who won the trophy at least twice each. They were the first Victorian amateur champions.

This superb trophy depicts the city of Melbourne and rowing on the river in 1860. Apart from being one of the two oldest rowing trophies in Australia, it is without doubt one of the most beautiful and important trophies in Australia. Henry Woolnough was instrumental in the recovery of the triophy for use in Australia.

About 1863 or 1864 an immense flood occurred in the Yarra River. When the great flood occurred the Elswick sheds was washed away over the falls. This accident led to the death of the club. Mr Woolnough was one of the creditors and he was allowed to take possession of the challenge cup for his personal property. He offered it to the Committee of the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Committee (Australian Henley), to be rowed for annually.

Andrew Guerin 2015

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Tim Wright

Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club
1994 – Nations Cup – Men’s Lightweight Four three seat - Fourth
1995 – Nations Cup – Men’s Lightweight Four three seat - Silver
1997 – Interstate Men’s Lightweight Four Championship bow - Second
1997 – World Championships – Men’s Lightweight Eight bow – Gold
1999 – Interstate Championships -Men’s Lightweight Four bow – Second

1997 Lightweight Eight - Tim in the bow seat

Tim commenced his rowing at Ballarat High School in 1985 as a cox. He was introduced to the sport by his father who was then coaching his older brother. After 3 years of coxing, he commenced rowing at the age of 15. He has continued his interest in the sport as a rowing umpire and also as a regatta official at Ballarat regattas.

Andrew Guerin 2013

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<back to Victorian Rowing Hall of Fame Index

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