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australian rowers profiles and history

Dr David Bagnall

Balmain Rowing Club (NSW) then from 1974, ANU Boat Club (ACT)

David is a highly effective coach and an astute and highly successful administrator. He has completed over 50 years of active volunteering across all facets of rowing: coach, administrator, selector, boat race official, commentator and, perhaps most importantly, advocate for the sport.

The esteem in which he is held is illustrated by being awarded life membership of ANU Boat Club, Black Mountain Rowing Club and Rowing ACT. Fortunately he has also been recognised by being awarded ACT's Sports Volunteer of the Year at the annual Canberra Sports Awards.

David's rowing commenced in the Scot's College Sydney rowing program, which sadly was not at its best at that time. It is with some sadness that he recalls that he learnt more about how not to do things as a coach later in life than what to do. 

Continuing his study at the University of NSW allowed him to row, this time at Balmain Rowing Club in their lightweight squad. There were some excellent lightweights at this club at that time led by Terry Maher, They won the NSW Championships and, at one NSW Championship regatta, defeated the World Championship MUBC based crew, one of the few crews to claim that honour.

On moving to Canberra in 1974 to work with the CSIRO, he continued to row including winning an ACT sculling Championship. Whilst at the CSIRO, David was able to add a PhD in the biological sciences to his honours degree from UNSW.

But his greatest work for the sport was to come as a coach where he has developed over 20 national team rowers and of course hundreds of rowers. Interestingly, he has coached at most ACT clubs with Capital Lakes currently in receipt of his good works. Whilst his administration work for the sport has been substantial and the achievements significant, it has come about to ensure that the administration does not get in the way of the rowing. He is clearly athlete focused and the administration was a means to an end. Although when the opportunity for early retirement from the CSIRO arose, he was able to add significant skills to bear to the benefit of ACT rowing. ACTRA benefitted largely for over 10 years from having effectively an additional volunteer and effective resource available. Despite the reluctance of many in ACT to lobby and argue with government given their employment, David was the fearless advocate.

His coaching has assisted the development of various school and open rowing clubs and he has identified and developed potential international talent. His work has contributed positively to the quality, scale and diversity of the ACT’s rowing coaching resources. 

But let us not forget the administrative work and advocacy for the sport which has:

The citation of the Rowing ACT website summarises his excellence at a club and association level.

David Bagnall was elected to Life Membership at the 56th Annual General Meeting on 28 September 2020, recognising his service as an administrator and rowing coach. David joined the Australian National University Boat Club upon arriving in Canberra during the 1974-75 season and soon became the Boat Club’s delegate to the ACT Rowing Association. Thus began a long record of service to the Association as an Executive Committee member, Senior Vice President (1976-77) and President (1985-88 and 2010-19). Over this time, he also contributed to the development of several clubs, notably Narrabundah (Black Mountain) Rowing Club, where he was a veteran of the lengthy battle to secure a grant of a boatshed site on Black Mountain Peninsula.

David is one the ACT’s most successful rowing coaches, whose efforts have greatly advanced the fortunes of his athletes and the reputation of rowing in the ACT. In the late 1970s he settled on a successful formula for recruiting and instructing lightweight women rowers at ANUBC. This involved recruitment of athletic students and training scheduled to fit in with study commitments and avoid cold winter mornings. This approach saw early success at State and National level and later contributed to international medals.

In his second term as President, David dealt with important developments on the Yarramundi Reach Course such as relocation of the spectator area from Lady Denman Drive to a sustainable site on Weston Park. This was followed by approvals for installation of landing pontoons. He was active in removing the threat of closure of Lake Burley Griffin to rowing following algal blooms by securing “secondary contact status” for the sport.

David has made a strong contribution to interstate competition as a selector and coach for the ACT and, prior to ACT rowing statehood, for New South Wales. He has facilitated staging of regattas at local, state and national level in his role as a well-informed commentator.

Andrew Guerin
December 2022

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