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History of Mercantile Rowing Club

25. The Rise of the Professional Coach (1996-2000)

Chapter Twenty-Five page 1 2 3 4 5


The 1998-99 season brought a new Captain in Geoff Barden. Bill Webster and Mike Kelly continued to carry the administrative load in secretarial and finance and Paul Somerville was again pivotal in rowing matters and was Vice-Captain for the second half the season.

Geoff Barden Bill Webster

Captain Geoff Barden and Secretary Bill Webster

On the coaching front, Peter Somerville led a large team comprising Noel Donaldson, Simon Morrison, Paul Somerville, Matt Lovell, Jason Faranda, Georgia Grant, Richards Wraith and Anthony Bergelin. They led our rowers to set significantly higher levels of success at State and National Championships. Peter Somerville noted in the annual report that over forty members were coaching school crews and club members dominating some events, for example club members coached the first, second and fourth placed schoolboy eight crews.

The National Championships brought good success with Mercantilians in winning women's double scull (Georgina Douglas with Canadian Marnie McBean) and Katie Foulkes steering the women's eight to victory. The men also went well with success in the men's pair (Tomkins, Ginn and coached by Noel Donaldson), men's under 23 pair (Travis Johnston, Simon Gadsen and coached by Noel Donaldson) and four (Scott Nash, Kris Coventry, David Clerk, David Crawshay, Cch: Peter Somerville) with club members in both the first and second placed under 23 eights. This was the first great season of David Crawshay who has gone onto many other great rowing deeds.

1999 Australian Championship Under 23 Four

1999 Australian Championship Men's Under 23 Four

Bow: David Crawshay, 2: Matt Phillips, 3: Kris Coventry, Str: Scott Nash, Cox: Millie Terracall, Coach: Peter Somerville

Amongst many other successes, the Victorian Championships also provided good results in the men's pair and eight and women's single and eight.

James Tomkins, Drew Ginn and coach Noel Donaldson went onto win the World Championship in the pairs in convincing style leaving no doubt who would win the pairs in Sydney. This was a momentous race for James Tomkins as he became the only person ever to win a World Championship in every sweep oared event. This achievement has still not been surpassed when these words were written in 2005. It is sad to note that this crew did not get their opportunity after Drew Ginn had to withdraw in 2000.

1999 World Champion Pair

1999 World Champion Pair

Bow: Drew Ginn, Str: James Tomkins, Cch: Noel Donaldson

Ben Dodwell picked up silver in the coxless four.

Georgina Douglas finished a strong seventh in the single and Katie Foulkes steered the women's eight to a fourth placing. Mike McKay and David Colvin finished seventh in the eight and Brett Hayman steered the coxed pair to a fourth placing.

The World Championships were held in St Catherines Canada and Sean Colgan invited many Mercantile members to be his guest at these Championships. He apparently gave the owners of two houses overlooking the finish an offer they could not refuse to allow these Mercantile members to stay. The 1967 winning coxed four at St Catherines made the journey back to enjoy the hospitality and included John Harry, Stephen Gillon, David Douglas and Graeme Boykett. They even enjoyed a row of the Championship course. Sleep was an optional extra which was not always taken. Although Andrew Guerin was on the jury of these Championships, he partook of the hospitality and was grateful that he was not tested with too many difficult decisions.

The Club's finances continued to grow with income reaching $200,000 for the first time and only some 5-6 years after it had breached $100,000. The equipment purchases also changed with boats being purchased specifically for our women rowers. In this season both a pair (the "Peter China O'Brien") and four (the "William Webster") were purchased for the women, no boats for the men plus oars and a boat trailer.

On the social side, David Yunghanns and Barry Gross put together their last Barrel's Bash having achieved their aim of showing the Club how to put together such functions. David Boykett's President's Luncheons were continued by the current President and proved an excellent avenue to invite parents of our rowers to see the Club in action. The rowers organised their own parties including the Jungle Party and the Karaoke Night. The older members wisely chose to keep their distance. In summary a good season was had by all.

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