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australian rowers profiles and history

Anthony Johnson

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Above: Johno stroking the Australian four in 1989 at Bled

Anthony commenced his rowing at Carey Grammar 40 years ago and is still a rower at the Club today.

His rowing records looks like this:

1982 Head of the River Carey first crew in the six seat  – Second

1983 Victorian Championship under 19 Four and Bronze at the Nationals in the four

1984 Interstate Championships – Victorian Youth Eight two seat – First

1985 First year of under 23 rowing at Mercs

1986 National Championship wins in the under 23 four and eight and a bronze in the pair

1986 Australian Under 23 Trans Tasman team – two seat of the eight – Australia won series

1987 National Championships Under 23 four and Under 23 eight wins

1987 Australian Under 23 Trans Tasman team – stroke of the eight – Australia won series

1988 Australian development eight – USA and UK tour

1988 Henley Royal Regatta – Ladies Plate winner

1989 World Championships –  Australian Coxless Four stroke

1990 World Championships – Australian Coxed Four bow

1992 VIS European development tour

Anthony has been coaching even since including 2 years at Scotch looking after their second crews, seven years as Wesley as their first crew coach, and the last 10 years at St Kevin’s College coaching everything from the firsts to year nines.


Anthony’s first big race was the 1982 Head of the River where the Carey crew lost by a whisker to MGS in one of the closest finals ever. He backed up James Tomkins who was in the stroke seat.

Above: The 1982 Head of the River finish

As soon as year 12 exams finished, Johno went straight down to Mercs and began a superb rowing career. He was still under 19 in his first year at the club and so raced in an under 19 junior four coached by Noel Donaldson which included Stuart Gula, Andrew James, Dom Scally and coxed by Rob Forsyth. This crew was highly successful winning the under 19 pair and four at the Victorian Championships.

In the 1984, he raced in one of the best Victorian youth eights ever boated. They were 11.1 seconds in front at 1500m mark and went on to win by nearly 8 seconds. The trophy was presented by the FISA President, Thomi Keller.

1984 Victorian Youth Eight - Johno second from the right

Anthony had a superb under 23 career winning many National Championships and representing the country in two under 23 National teams.

His break into the senior ranks went well despite racing in esteemed company at the club with the likes of Patten, Tomkins, McKay, Cooper, Doyle brothers and Fogarty to name just a few. What a club eight!

Anthony’s rowing was renown for being tenacious – he did not have the size of his peers. He successfully raced with them and against them and held his own at all times. If you raced with him, you knew that he would leave everything on the track and if the racing was tight, you would be doing the same. There was no surprise that he was required to be in the stroke seat of many of the crews in which he raced.

An Australian development eight was selected in 1988 to tour USA and Europe and it raced at Henley Royal Regatta in the Ladies Plate. This was one of Johno’s memorable rowing moments as stroke. In the final the crew was 2 lengths down and rowed through the opposition to win, and equalled the course record for the event at the same time.

Above: 1988 Ladies Plate crew at HRR

Anthony was selected to race in the National team at the Bled World Championships in 1989 as stroke of the coxless four. In the following year, he was bow in the coxed four at the Lake Barrington World Championships.

After a year off, he returned in 1992 to help aspiring athletes and raced in a VIS development crew on a European tour.

Anthony has been coaching at schools ever since including two years at Scotch College with their second crews, seven years at Wesley coaching their first crews, and the last 10 years at St Kevin’s College coaching everything from their first to their year nines.

His great memories of the Club are the same as most members, the camaraderie, the energy of the place, the broadness of members and the personalities. He added that Mercs rowing has been a rich and central part of his and many other lives and in his case, it continues to be so.


Andrew Guerin
October 2018

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