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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 8 - Hard All to the End 1970-1990

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A large number of young people were becoming involved in the activities of the club and it was felt that if their enthusiasm was maintained and encouraged Barwon could look forward to increased success. A new timber coxless racing pair was added to the fleet in 1984/85 and two members were successful in winning the Penrith Cup; Brian and Bill Digby with Geoff again as coach. The trio were also selected to represent Australia in the Lightweight Eight at the World Championships in Belgium and again made the final. Closer to home, the inaugural John Barber Trophy was won by Glen Konig. One group in particular who showed great character and determination to learn the sport, win races and make the most of the club were the girls from Matthew Flinders High School.

The 1985/86 season, despite winning representation by Robert Gardner with Sam Golding in the Australian Lightweight Double Sculls, Brian Digby and Geoff Hunter in the Penrith Cup, and Australian Lightweight Four wins at the Commonwealth Games, was a lean for the majority of club members. However, some new members and their families, particularly from Matthew Flinders and Bell Park high schools, provided an impetus which soon became the backbone of the club. Throughout the 1986/87 season the club competed at 20 regattas for 16 wins and Robert Gardner again won the Australian Lightweight Double Sculls. The future of the club now rested on its young members as they strove to develop their rowing skills. Both that year and the following, a new fibreglass tub four was added to the fleet. Once again the club was active at the highest level of the sport, with Brian Digby a member of the Australian Lightweight Four and Penrith Cup. However, the club lost the services of a valued life member, former secretary and friend, with the death of Ray Lahey. Ray was first elected a member of the club in 1930. Over the next few years he served as assistant secretary and on the social committee. He was elected Honorary Secretary in 1971 and held this position until 1979. He was a past president of the Geelong Old Oarsman's Association and vice-president of the Victorian Rowing Association. His contribution and service to the club was sorely missed. As the club struggled to regain its former glory, the recruitment of new student members was made an immediate priority by the club's committee.

In 1988/89 the clubhouse was re-roofed and an effective administration and good club spirit were evident during much of the year. A veteran eight crew won on the Barwon and students from Geelong Grammar and Geelong Christian schools rowed from the shed. The club's committee began looking at updating the facilities within the shed and commenced a programme of improvements to the kitchen and bar facilities. The club's 120th year began with wins for Michael and Craig Quinn, coached by their father Lex, in the mens Senior C Pair Championship and for the fourth time Brian Digby and Geoff Hunter representing the club in the winning Penrith Cup crew. As the Barwon Rowing Club entered the 1990s fortunately it could look to a hard core of willing members to assist in fundraising and maintenance activities. The performance of Barwon crews on the water, whether winning or not, and the fine spirit of the club was a credit to those who 120 years earlier had dreamt of rowing on the river.

Barwon Rowing Club Five Presidents

Left to right: Jack Wilks (1979/84), Geoff Hunter (1984/86), Karen Threlfall (1986/88), Chris Cox (1988/90), Keith Cook (1968/76)

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