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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 8 - Hard All to the End 1970-1990

Chapter 8 page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Barwon's shed also boated the Barwon Ladies Rowing Club and the Bell Park, Belmont and Oberon High Schools. St. Joseph's Rowing Club, Corio Bay Ladies Rowing Club, Morongo Boat Club and Artemis used the GRA shed, whilst Corio Bay's shed hosted the Gordon Technical College, Corio, West Geelong and Geelong Technical Schools and Geelong High School.

Throughout the 1977/78 season the amalgamation of the two clubs continued to be discussed. The Barwon Ladies Rowing Club participated in the meetings but insisted on an equal vote and equal membership rights. However, there was still some entrenched opposition amongst the senior male members of Barwon to admitting women as full members.

During that season Barwon men won the Junior First Division Premiership, the Victorian Youth Four Championship and provided Brad Homey, Andrew Cleary, Robert Kvant, John Nurzenski and Geoff Duniam with Mark Sheahan cox and coach Alan Darker in the Victorian Youth Eight. In 1977 the first male president of the social club, Robert Gardner, was elected.

The following season the club won for the second consecutive year the Junior First Division Premiership, won the Country Premiership and the inaugural VRA Champion Club of Victoria, the following state titles: Open Sprint Four Championship, Junior Four Championship, Junior Eight, Senior Pair and the Australian Junior Four. All these wins, with the exception of the lightweight pair, included Richard and Roman Tomczak, Andrew Cleary and Robert Kvant. Robert was also selected in the King's Cup squad. Several Geelong College recruits competed in novice and maiden eights, whilst Geoff Duniam and Craig Quinn were selected in the Victorian Youth Eight. During the season 235 crews were boated for 70 wins at 27 regattas.

By now the club was probably the biggest in Victoria with 53 active oarsmen, 21 of whom were students. On the social scene "Up The Creek" made a brief re-appearance and the Chandley Room, incorporating the Vin Steen Watering Hole, was completed. When formally opened by the president of the Victorian Rowing Association it was described as the best appointed and most comfortable social rooms in the association. It was put to the test when for the first time the 1979 dinner at the annual general meeting was not catered for by outside contract.

1978-79 Members and committee

1978-79 Members and committee

The 1980s began with, for the first time, a Barwon oarsman representing Australia when Robert Leach competed at the World Youth Rowing Championships in Bulgaria after stroking the winning Junior Four at the National Regatta in Queensland. During that 1980/81 season the club also won the Victorian Junior Four Championship with Robert Kvant, Andrew Cleary and Roman Tomczak. This year also saw the re-introduction of the Richardson Cup and also social cricket and football matches with Corio Bay. Michael Quinn set an unusual record in winning the Novice pairs, fours and eights all on the one day at the Colac Regatta. The VRA commenced steps to amalgamate with the VLRA, the last state to do so and Barwon began new merger moves with its sister club.

At the 1981 annual general meeting of the Barwon Rowing Club, W. Digby moved and L. Quinn seconded the motion that would allow the full and equal incorporation of female members into the club. In moving the motion W. Digby said that there had been discussions with members of the BLRC and that there was general agreement that it was a worthwhile move. He said that although they were a small club with a fluctuating membership, they had achieved outstanding success in both competition and fund-raising. Furthermore, they possessed a good fleet of boats.

Lex Quinn said that he had been associated with the club for more than six years and could not see any objection to the merger. The nationwide trend was to sporting clubs being open to both sexes and women had been involved with Barwon for the past 111 years, so it was fitting for them to be members. The motion was carried unanimously. At the last annual general meeting of the Barwon Ladies Rowing Club Anne Murray and Mrs. Mitchell were voted life members.

So no longer did the women hold their monthly meetings at their homes and struggle to raise the money for boats and equipment. The first female members of the Barwon Rowing Club were Donna Quinn, Ann Cawthray, Gillian Armitage and Catherine Murray; just four so that the more conservative male element were not overwhelmed. The sisters, mothers and girlfriends moved easily into the shed on the river and continued their success.

In common with many other country clubs, the 1980s were a struggle for Barwon, despite a significant representation in the sport at an elite level. In 1981/82, for the second year in a row, a Barwon member was selected to row for Australia; Robert Gardner as a member of the Australian Lightweight Eight. Amongst the female rowers, Caroline Dickens, Chivoen Shaw and Meryl Whitley won Australian titles. In 1982/83 the club gained a tub pair, tub four and racing four from the B.L.R.C. In these boats the women went on to win two Australian titles and several Victorian titles whilst the men won the Victorian Sprint Four Championship, a gold medal in the Senior B Double Sculls at the World Championship and provided a member for the Australian World Youth Four Championship. In a year of some incredible achievements for the club, probably the most historic was the decision to admit females as full members of the club for the first time in its 112 year history.

In 1983/84 the club celebrated five championship wins and another Australian Champion Lightweight Four win with Brian Digby, Bill Digby, Robert Gardner and Geoff Hunter as coach. These four members were selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Canada where they participated in the final. The club also won five championship races: Ian Jikell the Victorian Junior Sculling championship; the Digby brothers the Champion Senior Lightweight Pairs and Richard Tomczak in the Champion Senior Pairs.

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