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australian rowers profiles and history

Paige Barr

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Speaking with Paige and her coaches, you are struck by the positive and constructive attitude to her rowing. She will play with any cards dealt to her and do so well. Whilst not the tallest rower, her approach to her sport and to life augers well for success.

In describing Paige, her coaches use terms such as "consistency", "work ethic", "diligent", "ability to combine rowing, work and study", "community minded", "good racer", "great club member" and "adaptable". Paige talks about her approach more simply, "doing every training session without compromise", liking "to tick off every session in full", "if it is on the plan, do it", "staying positive even during down or tiring weeks", "appreciating the gradual improvements" and "maintaining self-belief". She mentions self-belief again later in our chat and it is obvious that she sees it a pre-requisite to being successful at the international level, and surviving the training loads, the long hours of training and the combined loads of rowing, work and study.

It becomes evident that she practises an approach to rowing to which we all aspire but don't always succeed in achieving. 

Paige commenced her rowing at Gippsland Grammar in Victoria where she raced exclusively in sculling boats. She was attracted to the sport as an opportunity to make new friends whilst maintain friendships of those who joined her into the sport. She gained early success taking the Junior Victorian Championships Year 10 scull in 2017.

She continued her sculling at school in 2018 and 2019 in both the single and crew sculling boats at the Head of the Schoolgirls Regatta, the Victorian Championships, and in 2017 and 2019, the National Championships. 

The sculling focus was immediately lost when she joined Mercantile Rowing Club and was thrown into sweep rowing with good results. The under 21 program was based in fours and eights with Paige finishing 2nd in the Victorian Championship Under 21 Four and a win in the open eight. Her real focus that season was on the under 23 sweep events at the Nationals and the Victorian Youth eight where she was in the four seat. Sadly, the pandemic put an end to these Championships and the opportunities were lost. Success at the national level was to be postponed until 2021. However, she took the opportunity of the pandemic to get back into the single and find a new level of capability both in skills and training levels.

So 2021 was the year where all that work came together in a successful season. Clean sweep of the Victorian Championship youth events, winning the under 21 four at the Nationals, and podium finishes in both the under 23 eight and Bicentennial Cup. Her COVID season was not lost and the preparation came to the fore.

2022 was a great season for Paige despite the loss through injury of her pair partner just before the National Championships. Her adaptability and training all came to the fore. In a new pair, she narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the open pair, was in the three seat of the second placed four, stroked the Mercs under 23 eight, (the only non-composite crew to get to the podium), a second placing in the under 23 scull despite her preparation being entirely in sweep boats, a win in the Queen's Cup, great seat racing at the trials giving her a place in the Australian team, a win at the World Cup 3 in the eight and finally a finals slot at the World Senior Championships. Wow! To this that Paige could rise to World Cup winner so quickly and from outside the National Training Centre is a great credit to her. 

Paige back row left on the Rotsee after her win in World Cup 3 in 2022

As this is written, the 2023 season is reaching a climax with the Australian selections completed and the National Championships about to commence. Paige has again raced herself into the Australian eight from outside the National Training Centre - an amazing feat. It was not without sacrifice with her pair partner Georgie Gleeson being Sydney based and a great deal of organisation to create a group in Melbourne with whom to train and compete. It was great that there were six girls in Victoria of similar standard and the same goal. It became a mini NTC which provided consistency, routine, a good training environment and a base from which to push to the top. This group made the best of their situation and is model for others to match.

In between her Sydney stints, Paige made it back to Melbourne for the Victorian Championships stroking the winning open eight and keeping up her sculling skills with a win in the under 23 scull.

Mentors and people of influence? In addition to past and current coaches, she looks up to both Kat Werry and Lucy Stephan, both successful rowers of a similar height to Paige, who have also completed their high school outside Melbourne, and of course, from Victoria.

Most memorable races? The win in Lucerne was immediately raised as the final was "an amazing race". The crew had a poor heat and required a significant change in the final to reach what they were capable of doing. They had to prove their worth to both themselves and others. The crew rowed through the well credentialled Canadian crew with a mixture of grit and possibly anger after their disappointing heat. They went onto win well and in fine style against top notch opposition. Both your author and her youth Club coach Sam Fennessy had the privilege of witnessing this superb race.

The other race of interest was the under 23 Scull at the 2022 National Championships. It was a last minute change where self-belief, reserves from training and built up skills all had to be brought out of the kit bag for testing. She made the best of that situation to finish second.

What has kept her in the sport? Seeing improvements and knowledge that she can go further. What was not said was that she obviously thrives in a structured and disciplined environment, imposed both internally and externally, and of course being around similarly motivated individuals.

Advice to younger athletes at the Club? Remind yourself to stay positive and do the work. Attitude is such a large part of success.

Study? Exercise Sports Science at Deakin.

Work? Hospitality.

Known rowing record

2017 - Junior Victorian Championships - Year 10 scull - First

2018 - Junior Victorian Championships, Double Scull - Third

2018 - Head of the Schoolgirls, Open Quad Div 2, two seat - Third

2019 - Victorian Championships, under 19 scull - Sixth

2019 - Victorian Championships under 21 quad scull - Fifth

2019 - Victorian Championships, schoolgirl open quad scull - Fourth

2019 - National Championships, schoolgirl quad scull - thirteenth

2020 - Victorian Championships, under 21 four - Second

2020 - Victorian Championships, open eight, two seat - First

2020 - National Championships - cancelled, entered in under 23 pair and four

2020 - Interstate Championships - cancelled - Victorian youth eight

2021 - Victorian Championships, under 21 four, two seat - First

2021 - Victorian Championships under 21 eight, six seat - First

2021 - Victorian Championships, open pair, stroke - Second

2021 - National Championships, under 23 eight, six seat - Third

2021 - National Championships, under 21 four, two seat - First

2021 - Interstate Championships, youth eight, six seat - Second

2022 - National Championships, open pair, bow - Fourth

2022 - National Championships, open four, three seat - Second

2022 - National Championships, under 23 scull - Second

2022 - National Championships, under 23 eight, stroke - Second

2022 - Interstate Championships, Queen's Cup - First

2022 - World Cup 3, Eight - First

2022 - World Under 23 Championships, coxless four - Bronze

2022 - World Championships, eight - Fifth

2023 - Victorian Championships, eight, stroke - First

2023 - Victorian Championships, under 23 scull - First

Andrew Guerin 
March 2023

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