2009 AUSTRALIAN ROWING CHAMPIONSHIPS AND INTERSTATE REGATTA
MARCH 2-8, LAKE BARRINGTON TASMANIA
The 2009 Australian Rowing Championships threw mixed results for NSW clubs and interstate crews. While a convincing win from the sky-blue men in the King’s Cup event made the trip back home sweeter, watching Victoria win the overall champions Rowing Australia trophy somewhat soured the journey. Interstate results were modest for the NSW crews, with younger crews struggling with the intense competition and the anxiety that accompanies racing on such a National stage. While crews, support staff and spectators may have hoped for a greater sky-blue presence on the podium, there were still many notable NSW results throughout the week at Lake Barrington, Tasmania.
The King’s Cup win is the headline event of the Interstate Regatta, and was an intense affair this year with NSW hoping to retain the trophy they had snatched form Victoria in 2008. The 2008 victory had been a breakthrough for NSW – only the second King’s Cup victory for the state in 25 years. To lose the trophy after such effort had been expended in its recapture would have been devastating. Fortunately a loss never seemed likely. With a strong preparation and a star studded crew (which included five 2008 Beijing Olympic Team members) the rumours of Victorian and South Australian dominance were never realised.
Throughout the race, NSW managed to routinely strengthen their lead – at every 500m split, the sky-blues were extending their lead by one second, finishing with an emphatic 5.20 second lead. Dan Noonan – coming into the eight after a resounding win in the President’s Cup in 2008 – said that the result was not unexpected, although the winning margin may have been. “We were very confident because we’d had a camp a few weeks before,” he said, “and the boat was going really well – we were certainly quietly confident. We exceeded our expectations a little, didn’t think it was going to be quite as convincing a win as it was. I guess it was just a great race that we executed really well.”
While the King’s Cup exceptional race execution was the crowning success for NSW, the National Championships are not all about the men’s eight. So while Victoria may have been sorely beaten in the Men’s Eight, they were still able to walk away with the Rowing Australia Cup for overall winners of the interstate regatta thanks to their other strong results throughout the interstate competition. Podium places were in short supply for NSW – only the King’s Cup men had a medal memento of the championships. But the other interstate squads – some of the youngest compared to other states – have potential for the 2010 regatta.
Adam Vine-Hall, who with Glenn Bates coached the Women’s Youth Eight in the Bicentennial Cup, believes his crew’s fifth place was a sign of the improving development programs throughout other State squads. “The team’s performance for the level of preparation…the fifth place was to be expected,” he said. “And also, looking at the competition it was to be expected. From our perspective, it would have been nice to get on the podium but the girls did have a good race.”
Queensland won the Bicentennial cup, with a 2.5 second lead over second placed Western Australia, and more than thirty seconds ahead of seventh placed ACT. “Our girls were absolutely up against tough competition,” he said. “I would say that the development that they’re doing in Queensland… it’s incredible.”
Adam was optimistic about how NSW – especially the representative youth crews – could improve for the next Interstate regatta. “We had a good win in the King’s Cup, but looking at the development in the Under 23 category, in the juniors, there’s room for improvement. There’s definitely potential. There’s definitely the need to look at what the other states are doing right, and try with a little bit of cooperation, we can definitely make the most of the potential.
While the representative teams attract the fanfare that interstate rivalries regularly arouse, NSW rowing clubs were also competitive throughout the Championships. Of particular note were the performances of the Sydney University Clubs. While Melbourne University may have won the overall medal tally (11 Gold, 8 Silver and 5 Bronze), in fourth and fifth place were the Sydney Uni Women’s Rowing Club (7 Gold, 5 Silver and 5 Bronze) and the Sydney Uni Boat Club (7 Gold, 5 Silver and 3 Bronze). Sydney University also had the honour of providing the state crew with a new Empacher eight (which they had imported in October 2008).
Starring for Sydney Uni at Lake Barrington was Bronwen Watson who, in the Open Women’s Division, won gold in the Lightweight Single, Lightweight Double and Lightweight Quad. Bronwen – and NSW spectators – were thrilled with her wins. “I had a lot of confidence coming off a good single scull performance at the NSW Rowing Championships,” she said, “but I was well aware of some other very tenacious competitors that would take some beating! I have won a number of National titles previously, but this year was the first time I was able to win the lightweight single scull championship. Although the conditions at Barrington did at times prove very challenging – its still a fabulous place to race!”. Bronwen, like many of her NSW compatriots, recognised the powerful competition she was up against. “The lightweight women’s category in Australia is very competitive,” she said. “The starting line up for the final of the single scull included 4 current World champions, as well as scullers from four different States – that certainly makes for some quality racing. The Under 23 division was one of the highest subscribed events at the regatta – a strong indication that lightweight women’s racing in Australia is thriving!”
Underlying everyone’s hopes for 2010 must be the hope for potential to translate into performances at the Interstate level. While individuals and particular crews were able to shine at Lake Barrington, the depth of rowing talent in NSW has yet to be realised were it counts – in the interstate competitions. With the experiences of 2009 behind them, 2010 could be the year when NSW wins back the Overall Champions trophy – and the bragging rights that go with it.
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