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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 8 - Hard All to the End 1970-1990

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In October 1970 the Barwon Rowing Club celebrated its centenary, the same year as the death of Arthur Collins. More than 200 people celebrated 100 years of rowing and companionship with a dinner at the Geelong City Hall. They also celebrated the season's two premierships; Lightweight and Country and a total of 32 wins. The 1970s began with Bob Fitch winning the Victorian Senior Scull Championship. The new four, the Peter McHugh was added to the fleet and Bell Park won the High Schools "Head of the River", the first time it had been won outside the metropolitan area. The club also won the Country and Lightweight premierships.

In 1971/72 a new pair, the Phil Morgan was delivered. For the first time the club won an Australian title, the National Coxed Pairs with R. Fitch and R. Garrard. It also provided the coach, Len Gladman and crew member Alan Hart and emergency P. Armitage for the Penrith Cup in Tasmania. Also on the winning list were A. Hart (st), P. Armitage, P. Morgan, K Chandley and G. Hunter cox in the Victorian and Country Senior Lightweight Four and Country Open Four, L. Ljubanovic, (st) J. Bateman and cox M. Entwhistle as Victorian Champion Junior Pair and die Country Champion Open Eight of P. Armitage (st), A. Hart, L. Ljubanovic, J. Bateman, K. Chandley, J. Murray, P. Morgan, P. McHugh and G. Hunter cox. With a new liquor permit granted, the canteen was moved upstairs. The shed was also connected to the sewerage main and two bays were refloored in concrete.

In August 1972, following a long and controversial campaign by Geelong rowers, the segregation of rowers and water-skiers along the Barwon River from Princes Bridge to the Breakwater was finally achieved. Power boats were permitted to be on the rowing mile only on Sunday afternoons and over the Christmas-New Year period. An area was permanently set aside for power boats from a point opposite Bellarine Street to near the Breakwater.

The first mention of women rowing with Barwon came about at the July 1972 committee meeting of the Barwon Rowing Club. Member Peter Jackson informed the meeting that a number of girls had asked him to raise the possibility of their learning to row at the club. There then followed a lively and heated discussion, ending in the general agreement that although ladies would add to the social life of the club and furthermore be an asset and of valuable assistance to the Social Committee, there were "difficulties" as to accommodation and coaching. It was recorded in the minutes that the matter should not be completely dismissed and that further thought be given. The matter presumably lapsed for the duration of the highly successful 1972/73 season. Participating in 120 races, the club notched up 49 wins with 40 oarsmen. The number of wins was an all-time record for the club and possibly both a Victorian and Australian record as well. To cope with the number of crews attending regattas the club purchased its first towing vehicle. The winning of the Elswick Challenge Cup for Junior fours provided a unique winning double for Alan Hart in that he steered the last Barwon winning crew. The Eliot Shannon Cup came home to the club with the wining of the Maiden Eights at Barwon Regatta with the crew of: H. Mussett, I. Greaves, Ri. Tomczak, Ro. Tomczak, D. Oliviera, N. Whitley, C. Hall, G. Marchant and G. Muir, cox. Another first was the appointment of Len Gladman as a State selector. Three very important club members died during the season; vice-captain Bob Fitch, life member, vice-president and founder of the Geelong Rowing Association, Clive Richardson, and Harold Hurst.

Then, at the conclusion of the season, the interest in women's rowing was revived when on 28 April 1973 Geelong hosted the 47th Australian Women's Rowing Association Championships. For a week prior to the regatta, 22 women's clubs, including a strong New Zealand team, trained on the Barwon to the chagrin of the local women. There were already 12 women's clubs in Victoria, seven of them based in the country. During the week's training, officials from the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association and the local YWCA heavily promoted the sport and set about to provide opportunities for Geelong women to participate. Geelong's Mayor, Cr. McGregor Dowsett gave his support to the foundation of a Gee-long women's rowing club and offered his rooms for an inaugural meeting. However, it was Corio Bay Rowing Club that responded to the need and early in June a pilot committee was formed to launch the new club under the sponsorship of Corio Bay. Sixteen girls were already in training from their shed and another 50 were said to be interested.

The more enlightened members of Barwon tried again in July. L. Ljubanovic informed the monthly meeting that several young ladies preferred to row with Barwon, due to their family connections with the club. They required only the use of equipment and did not expect any say in the club's administration. Another long discussion took place. This time it was acknowledged that women's rowing was becoming a force, as evidenced by its inclusion in the next Olympics and whilst deserving of support, the club's fleet was considered not even extensive enough to cater for the current male membership.

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