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australian rowers profiles and history

J Doug Donoghue AM

Sydney Rowing Club, Mercantile Rowing Club and Commercial Rowing Club

Doug died at home at Edgcliffe in early August 2022, aged 86 years old.

Doug commenced his rowing at Sydney High School where he coxed fours and the eight before finishing his school rowing in the second four. He did not forget this grounding and gave back by coaching junior crews and co-coaching their first crew.

He joined Sydney Rowing Club whilst still at school and has remained a staunch member ever since. During his membership, he rowed, then coached and then became a distinguished administrator of the Club. He was a Director, Vice-President, received the Order of Merit and remained the Chair of the Sydney Rowing Club Foundation until a few months prior to his death.

His professional life was largely served with Ampol, which became a conglomerate of many businesses. His roles included regional management, senior head office positions and managing or sitting on the Boards of companies in which they invested. He had a broad range of experience in senior corporate positions which was to be used by the Australian Olympic Committee.

It was in this time undertaking regional management positions that he spent time in Brisbane and Melbourne. In Brisbane he joined the Commercial Rowing Club and undertook coaching responsibilities. One of his lightweight men's crews was to become the Queensland crew.

In a transfer to Melbourne to manage the Victorian and Tasmanian regions, Doug joined Mercantile Rowing Club and has maintained this membership for the rest of his life. He and Phil Cayzer, who was also working in Melbourne at that time, created a strong link between Sydney Rowing Club and Mercantile Rowing Club which continues until today.

Doug was also very active in Rowing NSW. He held many positions of responsibility including a Vice-President and trustee of the Laurie Stepto Trust.

As far as rowing is concerned, perhaps his most influential work was in 1995-6 when he and John Boultbee, respectively representing the AOC and the ASC, took over the Rowing Australia high performance program during a financially distressed time for Rowing Australia. They were able to not only  maintain the program, but Australia went from a low ranking nation in 1995, to the most successful nation at the 1996 Olympic regatta and also Australia won six medals at the under 19 and under 23 regattas. Their work was excellent and they handed back to the sport a high performance program in fine form.

He was no stranger to assisting the sport with media which was also undertaken with excellence. It included doing the ABC radio call for the Olympic rowing in 1976 and the TV commentaries for both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic rowing. He was also a regular at local regattas with his commentary heard at the NSW GPS regatta and National Regattas for many years.

In 2020, Doug was elected to life membership of Rowing Australia for his endeavours.

Probably his best known work has been at the Australian Olympic Committee where he was a member of their Executive Committee for many years and provided strategic advice in many areas and in particular, financial. The AOC is now a financially independent organisation with the resources to fulfil its objectives.

He was also a director of the AOC Foundation and life member of the AOC. 

His superb work as an Executive Committee member and Vice-President of the NSW Olympic Council has led to a life membership of that organisation. 

He was a key member of the 1996 Melbourne Olympic bid, spending a year in Paris as the Director of European Liaison followed by lobbying in Europe for the Sydney bid with the Bid Lobby Group.

Doug's contribution to rowing and the Olympic movement has been exceptional. These few words only provide a glimpse of his great sporting life.

Andrew Guerin
May 2020 (updated August 2022)

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