Scroll To Top

History of Mercantile Rowing Club

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

Chapter Twenty-Five page 1 2 3 4 5


The final season of this Olympiad was dramatic as well as most pleasurable. The Olympic Games were in Sydney and high hopes were held for Drew Ginn and James Tomkins in the pair. Drew Ginn's back had been causing him much grief and we were all hoping that he would repeat the great race in the pairs of 1999. Alas this was not to occur. Minutes before their race in Lucerne Switzerland, Drew broke down and was replaced by Club Member Matt Long. James and Matt went onto win the pairs in Lucerne in good racing. Drew withdrew to have back surgery to repair his back and continue on with his great career. Matt and James were also to remain together through to the Olympic Games where they finished with a bronze medal.

Noel Donaldson again coached the pair and also Georgina Douglas who was a finalist in Sydney.

2000 Olympic Bronze Medallist Pair

2000 Olympic Games - Bronze Medallists

Bow: Matt Long, Str: James Tomkins, Cch: Noel Donaldson

Of great interest was the Olympic men's eight. Michael McKay returned to became a key person in the silver medal winning eight which was coxed by Brett Hayman and coached by Brian Richardson. Ben Dodwell picked up bronze in the coxless four and Katie Foulkes again steered the women's eight who finished fifth. Andrew Guerin served on the jury of these Games.

2000 Australian Eight

2000 Olympic Games - Silver Medallists

Michael McKay third from the left and Brett Hayman in front

Geoff Barden was again Captain, Paul Somerville Vice Captain, Bill Webster Secretary and Jason Faranda joined as Treasurer. Peter Somerville continued as Chairman of Selectors and our professional coach. The Club adopted a new set of rules to cover several minor deficiencies and changes to laws governing incorporated associations.

The season's rowing started with Mercantile representing Victoria at the Pacific Rim regatta in Sydney which doubled as the test race for the course. The Club found this to be a very good way of getting our rowers to train over winter. Our friends at Sydney Rowing Club also had a similar view and discussions took place to create a Mercantile and Sydney Rowing Club event for August every year. The Cayzer Cup was to be formed in 2000 as a result.

The Victorian Championship regatta started with a forgettable first day but a remarkable second day with great success. David Crawshay was developing as a great sculler and raced 5 races within three hours to win the intermediate scull, senior four and a creditable placing in the elite scull behind Peter Antonie. Gina Douglas again won the scull and our women's youth eight won well. Eleanor Garnys and Emily Wilmoth gained selection into the Victorian youth crew. The men's eight was again won with a devastating ten second margin.

The National Championships were again good for the Club despite James Tomkins and Drew Ginn not racing due to injury to Drew. Gina Douglas lost the National Title to Bronwyn Roye but turned the tables in the Interstate race. David Crawshay continued his good form winning the under 23 single race and third in the double. The King's Cup crew, containing David Colvin, James Tomkins, Drew Ginn Mike McKay, Ben Dodwell, Bill Tait, Robert Douglas and coached by Noel Donaldson won well. As did Georgina Douglas in both the eight and single and the Victorian women's youth eight containing our two representatives.

The coaches of the season were Peter Somerville, Paul Somerville, Jason Faranda, Sarah Chibnell, Simon Morrison, Paul McGann, David Ochert, Graeme Boykett, Anthony Bergelin, Tim Frederico, David Colvin, Noel Donaldson and Matthew Lovell.

Over a number of years, the social rowers had become a key part of our Club. There were both serious masters rowers and other who formed part of the Inebri Eight. They were all a key part of the fabric of the Club.

The Club purchased a new eight the "Geoff Barden", and three new pairs, named in honour of Georgina Douglas, Drew Ginn and James Tomkins. The American team were able to also transport a set of oars from Sean Colgan with the Olympic Regatta in Sydney. Needless to say, Sean Colgan continued to be a generous benefactor to the Club.

On the social side, the highlight was the Club's Annual Dinner where members were treated to a magnificent speech by Drew Ginn. He held the members spellbound, motivated and enlightened with stories of his experiences of club to Olympic regattas. It was a truly great speech.

1998 Naming of the boat trailer "Trailer Al"

The new boat trailer being named "Trailer Al" by Sally Guerin in honour of Sean "Trader Al" Colgan in 1998

In summary, the Club enjoyed a good Olympiad with increased membership, finances, rowing success and great social activity. The only downside appeared to be our ability to recruit enough athletes of the calibre of Tomkins, McKay, Cooper, Patten and Ginn.

On a general level it had become apparent that clubs without the appropriate level of desire and professional coaching would lose the ability to compete at an elite level. In Victoria, only Mercantile and MUBC really fought out elite races regularly as they had both the desire and coaches. Interstate clubs who had similar resources such as UTS, Sydney University and Sydney in NSW, Queensland University in Queensland and Swan River in WA, all prospered at this level. Other Clubs were falling back into under age and other areas of rowing. The level of professionalism required was creating elite clubs and other clubs were focusing on other niches. In many ways this was a good thing for the sport as it needed many clubs focusing on these other areas.

Chapter Twenty-Five page 1 2 3 4 5

< previous Chapter 24

> next Chapter 26

top of page

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management