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australian rowers profiles and history

John Campbell Ward

12-06-1944 – 20-03-2020

John was well known at regattas throughout his life, firstly as a rower, then as a coach, and finally as a regatta official.

He commenced his rowing at the Essendon Rowing Club where he learnt his rowing skills and love of the sport.

He moved to Rutherglen around 1970 where he became involved with the Rutherglen Lake Rowing Club. He was a successful sculler at Junior, Senior and Open levels during the 1970’s as well as winning Junior Pairs and a Senior Pair with one of his protégé’s. John was also active on the administration holding the positions of secretary and Captain.

He went onto coaching with many successful crews, including a Victorian Champion Coxed Pair in 1983.

John was a great club member who was honoured with 2 boats being named after him and numerous rowers who revered him. He was strong, but also a kind and thoughtful man whose opinions were valued. His services were also recognised with a life membership.

At the boat naming of one his boats, Club President Paul Somerville drew on a Tour de France analogy to describe John. In the tour, there are the sprinters, who often are the prima donnas of a team - they expect everyone to do the majority of the work while they sit and take the ride and come out in the last 100m to take the glory. Then there are the mountain climbers; often not much more than jockey sized riders who with their light weight come into their own in the mountain stages. Then there are the strong riders who take the lead in difficult conditions when the going is tough and the situation calls for a long turn at the front of the group. John was definitely a strong rider. Someone who was uncompromising, demanded hard work of himself and his team, and had his sights and expectations set accordingly.

In later years he drove umpire boats at State and National Championship regattas. He was always sought after as he could understand how a race was unfolding and place his boat exactly where it should be to overcome racing issues. He saved many an umpires reputation with his work. Many will know of him by his nickname ‘Norm’, in fact many thought that this was his given name. This nickname was given to him by his interstate umpire boat driving colleagues who reckoned that he was the most normal person amongst them.

Despite a passion for racing pidgeons, the advancement of rowing was always John’s endeavour in life. He succeeded in this endeavour.

With thanks to Gary Milthorpe, Paul Somerville and Andrew Guerin.

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