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History of NSW Central Districts Rowing Association

NSW Central Districts Rowing Association

Regatta Program Established – the 1990s

Seasons 1 to 3 – CDRA Develops an Association Regatta Program 

After 8 years of limited and irregular activity, CDRA introduced their first program of association regattas for the 1989/90 regatta season. The program was made up of 5 CDRA pointscore regattas alongside 3 NSWRA pointscore regattas, 2 non-pointscore regattas and a 15km marathon. Host clubs continued to be responsible for call of entries, regatta draws, provision of trophies and conduct of regattas.

Regattas were conducted over 1000 metres and ran between 9.00am and 12.30 with races starting 10 minutes apart averaging 3 crews per race. Manning River RC, Port Macquarie RC and Hunter RC participated fully throughout the season with minimal entries from Newcastle University. Although Central Coast had been a member of the association since its inception, the club did not compete during the 1989/90 season and would not appear at any further CDRA regattas.

For the second season of CDRA regattas, the association took on the responsibility of regattas draws with entries and entry fees submitted to the association rather than to the host club and the secretary/treasurer conducting the draw.

It was resolved that prize money would be awarded to the annual pointscore funded by an increase in seat fees with prizes for 1990/91 being $500 for 1st, $300 for 2nd, $100 for 3rd and $100 to the winner of a schools pointscore. 

In the following season it was decided that all of the association’s share of entry fees would go to the monetary prizes with first place to receive 50%, second place 30% and third 20%. As the season’s income reached $999, the prizes awarded were $500, $300 and $200.

In August 1990, Bob Williams (Hunter) was elected to his first of five years as president. 

After ten years guiding CDRA through the difficulties of foundation, decline and re-emergence, Graham Nix stepped down from his position as secretary/treasurer at the 1991 AGM leaving the association in a healthy state of positive growth with Peter Bond (HVGS) elected in his place.

Scone Rugby Club Rowing Club affiliated with CDRA in December 1990 although they would not make a regatta entry for another two seasons and then under another name.

At the beginning of 1991, Hunter Valley Grammar School (HVGS) developed a rowing program based at the Walka Water Works dam in Maitland and affiliated with the association. 

In November 1992, CDRA accepted the affiliation of Newcastle Rowing Club. 

Seasons 4 and 5 – The Regatta Program Expands – Championships Introduced

For the fourth season of CDRA competition, a Championship regatta was introduced to be conducted on the Manning River course at Taree with open championship events over 1500 metres. In the following season, a Schools regatta was added, conducted at Taree on the same weekend as the Championship regatta. Races conducted at Saturday’s Schools regatta included school events plus championships for Veterans and the new category ‘Senior’. Open and Junior championships were conducted on Sunday.

After programs in the first 3 seasons had consisted of 5 pointscore regattas, the program in season 4 expanded to 8 regattas including the CDRA Championships. Programs have fluctuated between 7 and 8 regattas since that time.

At a meeting following the second regatta of season 5, the question of composite crews was discussed. It was resolved that composite entries be accepted in all events and that points be awarded proportionally. This became a defining characteristic of CDRA that enabled small clubs to participate in many events locally that NSWRA rules prevented them from entering in Sydney regattas.

Graham Nix
Inaugural winner of CDRA Champion Men's Single Sculls. Secretary Treasurer 1981-1990. President 1995-2015

The 1992/93 racing season saw a significant increase in participation with 5 clubs regularly competing: Manning, NUBC, Port Macquarie, Hunter and HVGS. Mens singles and mixed events went beyond a single race into multiple divisions at most regattas, something that had rarely happened in previous seasons. 

The success of the season saw the prize pool growing rapidly and the decision was made to cap it at $2,000. The pool eventually grew to $3,117. Prizes awarded at the end of the pointscore season were $1,000, $600 and $400.

Scone Rugby Club Rowing Club changed their name to Upper Hunter Rowing Club prior to the start of the 1993/94 racing season, becoming a regular participant at CDRA regattas for the next 11 years.

During the season, applications for membership of the association were accepted from Newcastle Grammar School (September), Armidale Rowing Club (November) and Irrawang High School (January). 

Prize money was discontinued in 1994 with pointscore winners receiving CDRA banners from season 5 onward. 

1994 - A Special Annual Meeting – CDRA Adopts a Constitution

With the growth of the association and the differences in the points of view of several of the participants over procedural matters, it was decided that a constitution was needed to define the operational parameters of CDRA.

The annual meeting of May 1994 had two components; a special general meeting to adopt the constitution and the annual general meeting. 

With the adoption of the constitution, the association became the ‘Central Districts Rowing Association Incorporated’.

The annual general meeting completely revised the rules of boat racing applicable to CDRA regattas, with several amendments made in consideration of regional conditions.

Membership of the NSWRA and the ARC (Australian Rowing Council) was discussed. Membership fees to NSWRA included an ARC levee. Rowing’s share of government sports money was dependent upon the number of registered participants. To encourage all participants to register, NSWRA waived their membership fee for 1994, collecting only the ARC levee. CDRA was informed that all individual rowing competitors must register with NSWRA and pay the $21 ARC levee. 

For the first time, all CDRA rowers were obliged to become members of NSWRA.

The May 1994 meeting of CDRA closed at 7.52pm. It had been a marathon meeting, but a lot had been achieved. The association finally had a constitution and a significant section of the protocol for the conduct of CDRA regattas had been formalised. 

CDRA/NRRA Challenge 

Armidale RC became a CDRA regatta host in season 6 with crews from the Northern Rivers Rowing Association invited to contest the CDRA/NRRA Challenge on Lake Malpas. Entries were received from 6 NRRA clubs and 8 CDRA clubs in 1995 with CDRA winning the Challenge Shield. The CDRA/NRRA Challenge continued for 5 years with four wins to Central Districts and one to Northern Rivers until an infestation of blue-green algae closed Lake Malpas and cancelled the Armidale regatta.

CDRA/NRRA Challenge Medal

Armidale Rowing Club boatshed

In 1994 and again in 1995, 2 CDRA juniors who were members of talented athlete programs were directed to transfer to Sydney metropolitan clubs. The justification for these forced transfers was that NSWRA rules did not accept entries from composite crews in championships events. Much heated correspondence passed between the two clubs concerned, CDRA and NSWRA over the matter. Proposals were put to the Rules Revision Subcommittee of NSWRA with the eventual rule change that composite crews be accepted in U18 and U19 championship events – more was to come of this later.

Graham Nix Takes the Helm - Rowing Established at Berry Park

At the 1995 AGM, Bob Williams stepped down after 5 years as president with Graham Nix beginning the first of his twenty years at the head of the association. 

In June 1995, HVGS was obliged to cease operations on the Walka Water Works dam due to blue-green algae contamination. An alternative 500 metre course for the HVGS regatta was found on Fennell Bay at Blackalls Park. Three regattas were run on this course during the 1995/96 season with both the Newcastle and Hunter events transferred from their programmed sites due to unrowable weather conditions. Access to the course was lost at the end of the season when the key-holder’s daughter ceased competitive rowing. 

In early 1996, HVGS bought land on the Hunter River at Berry Park and built a boatshed ready for their annual regatta. The 1750m stretch of water finishing at the school’s boatshed was to become the most used course in the region. 

HVGS regatta October 1996 – the first regatta on the Berry Park course

As a follow on from the dispute over composite crews in championship events, CDRA formulated a submission to the NSWRA to permit regional clubs to compete in composite crews. The proposal was adopted at the 1996 June General Meeting of NSWRA enabling entries to be accepted in championship events from composite crews representing either CDRA or NRRA.

CDRA Sprint Championships

In 1997, the maximum distance of CDRA regattas was increased from 1500 to 2000 metres (1750 at Berry Park).

The CDRA Sprint Championship regatta was introduced in the 1998/99 season over a 500 metre course on the South Arm of the Hunter River. After being conducted at 4 different venues in 4 years, the Sprint Championships found a permanent home on Throsby Creek in 2002.  

The 3 lane, 400 metre Throsby Creek course in Carrington had been established by Newcastle RC in 1999 at the site where their future boatshed would be constructed 10 years later.

CDRA Sprint Championships – Throsby Creek

In 2002, the Schools and Championship regattas were consolidated into the single two-day CDRA Championships at Taree as the final regatta of the season. 

Club Developments in the late 1990s

City Rowers Club’s application for membership of the association was accepted at the 1996 AGM.

At the 1998 AGM, Endeavour Rowing Club was admitted as a member club. 

After eleven years paying rent for boat space in the Speers Point Sailing Club, in 1998 Hunter Rowing Club gained access to public land at Booragul next to Teralba Sailing Club where they built a boatshed of their own. 

Following 3 seasons of minimal participation, Newcastle Grammar entered sizeable squads in the 1998/99 season to join Hunter, HVGS, Manning, Newcastle, NUBC, Port Macquarie and Upper Hunter as one of the regular participants at CDRA regattas.

Hunter / Lake Macquarie Rowing Club boatshed

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