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History of NSW Combined High Schools Rowing Regattas

NSW Combined High Schools Rowing History

Historical Perspective

The first NSW schools to be involved in rowing were private schools that became members of the AAGPS when that body was formed in 1892. The first GPS rowing championship was conducted in 1893 with the Head of the River regatta being continuous since then except for a period of six years during the Second World War. The first government school to participate in rowing was Sydney Boys High which joined the GPS competition in 1924. 

Sydney Boys HS First Four 1924 – note the poppet oarlocks

The first school outside Sydney to take an interest in the sport was the Maclean District Rural School where a three man butcher boat was built by the students of the manual class in 1936. Two more equivalent boats were purchased by the school in 1937 and 1938 with intra-school racing beginning in 1937. The first inter-school regatta took place between Maclean and Grafton High in 1943 using the Maclean boats, a situation that continued until 1946 when Grafton High bought four butcher boats of their own. School regattas have continued on the Northern Rivers since that time with the Head of the Clarence at Grafton being one of the biggest school regattas in the country.

‘Queen Mary’ the butcher boat built by Maclean District Rural School in 1936

The Combined High Schools Sports Association

The first government schools sporting body formed in New South Wales was the NSW Public Schools Amateur Athletic Association (PSAAA), a primary school body set up in 1889 when “state high schools were virtually non-existent”. As the number of secondary schools gradually increased, the NSW Combined High Schools Amateur Athletics Association (CHSAAA) and the Girls Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) were formed as sub-committees of the PSAAA to co-ordinate sport in boys and girls high schools respectively. These sub-committees operated under the umbrella of the PSAAA which controlled the distribution of government funds and many other key functions. Following the dramatic growth in the number of high schools under the Wyndham scheme, the control of school sport was reorganized with the Combined High Schools Sports Association (CHSSA) and GSSSA becoming autonomous bodies in 1969. In keeping with the departmental policy of co-educational schooling and as a follow on from the amalgamation of boys and girls competitions in many sports into combined carnivals, the CHSSA and GSSSA were amalgamated in 1981 under the one title of CHSSA – commonly referred to as CHS.

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