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australian rowers profiles and history

Taufik K (Toff) Qurban

Torrens Rowing Club (SA) but coached at other clubs in South Australia 

Taufik (Toff) Qurban was a distinguished coach who gained much success with his South Australian crews. 

He pioneered the use of motion film in coaching from about 1937. Motion film, particularly hand held cameras, were expensive to own and operate. It proved to be a worthwhile tool for the important Interstate South Australian crews 1but the transition to club coaching had its difficulties as Bob Richardson wrote in his history of the Adelaide Rowing Club on page 116:

Another innovation was the filming of the Club crews in training, to pin-point faults for the coach to be able to show to the oarsman concerned, as Toff Qurban had done with the 1937-40 King's Cup Crews. But with the delay in getting film processed after the war and the speed with which Club crews changed, the idea could not be made to work.

In an article on Toff in The News on Saturday 10th December 1966, more on his photography is explained as well as a summary of his coaching career is provided.

Where are they now?

On April 24, 1937, South Australia had their last taste of rowing success in the King's Cup - the blue ribbon event for eight-oared crews in Australia.

Whenever rowing is discussed in Australia today, and that fine win is talked about, a name keeps bobbing up . .Taufik (Toff) Qurban.

"Toff" Qurban was the man who coached the SA crew. He was the man who made SA a power in rowing and brought a new and completely different coaching technique into the sport.

Taufik was a keen photographer and he was quick to realise the value of movie film in coaching. He was the first in Australia to use films as a coaching aid. He used his films as a coaching aid. 

He took South Australia from a Cinderella State in rowing to runner-upon the King's Cup in 1936. The next year SA won the King's Cup in 1937. The next year he coached the Australian four to victory in the 1938 Empire Games in Sydney.

This week Taufik (now in his seventies) said: "I always wanted my crews to be mentally alert and not too tired. Too much work can sap their mental alertness. I would study the crew individually for both human and rowing make-up. All the time I emphasised the necessity of the crew to be one body."

He became such a big name in world rowing that his films were sent to the London Rowing Club to be used for coaching.

His eyes lit up this week when we reminisced on SA's "golden day in '37. Three days before the event I was supremely confident of a win," he said. "I had a wonderful crew and we had lernt a lot from our narrow defeat by NSW in Perth the previous year. This crew in 1937 changed almost overnight and were unbeatable as the King's Cup drew near."

SA beat NSW upsetting the sequence of wins by that State. Tp beat NSW then was the ultimate, as they had won the past four titles.

Taufik Qurban became interested in rowing when he came to Australia in 1905 from Lebanon. Today he is still keenly interested. Ill-health in recent months has kept him away from regattas this season but last year he attended them all.

His advice is sought by rowing coaches all the time. Graham Coldwell, coach of the King's College crew, which won the Head of the River last year, is one who has consulted "Toff" Qurban.

"Toff" believes rowing has improved in SA despite then lack of success in the King's Cup in the past 30 years. On our chances for this year's King's Cup to be rowed at Murray Bridge on April 21-22, he sais: "Last year SA ran a close third. This is the big chance for history to repeat itself at Murray Bridge in April."

Toff in the 1930s with his camera

Celebrating with his 1937 SA crew

Known rowing record

1914 - SA Championships, Men's Eight (Torrens), trainer  - First

1936 - SA Championships, Men's Eight, coach - First

1936 - Interstate Championships, King's Cup (SA), coach - Second

1937 - SA Championships, Men's Eight, coach - First

1937 - Interstate Championships, King's Cup (SA), coach - First

1938 - Interstate Championships, King's Cup, coach - Fifth

1938 - Empire Games, Men's Four, coach - Gold

1939 - Interstate Championships, King's Cup (SA), coach -Third

1942 - Elected life member of Torrens Rowing Club

1950 - Australian University Championships, Men's Eight, coach, Sixth

1955 - Interstate Rowing Championships, men's Eight, coach - Sixth

Andrew Guerin
July 2024


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