3 Premierships, 3 Victorian Championships, 1 Australian Championship, 94 wins
Unless you were there, you cannot begin to imagine what a year 1987 was. The season started in October 1986 and both the men and women of the club were poised to take on the rowing world not individually but as a club. None of us were exceptional rowers really, but we all trained hard and we all aimed for the same thing. That made our crews and scullers exceptional. We attended 25 regattas including the National Championships at beautiful Lake Barrington again. Just about every weekend during the seven month season, we would load up the trailer and head off. Danny Elliott towed the trailer all over Victoria with his Chev. Often as not, he would have six or seven of us in the car, as he also took rowers who didn’t drive and whose parents couldn’t take them to regattas. He also paid for the petrol and never asked anyone to contribute which started to get quite expensive as the Chev had 100 litre tank and the price of petrol only ever went up!
Ballarat City Rowing Club was the Champion Club of Victoria this season. There had been a gradual build up of wins per year and the group of dedicated (some might have said fanatical) rowers guided by coach Danny Elliott, achieved the goal that we had dreamed of for over ten years. It was a year without equal in our one hundred and sixteen year history. Our 94 wins were sufficient to win the Men’s Champion Club and Men’s Junior Premierships and our fourth Champion Women’s Club of Victoria as well as second place on the Women’s Junior Premiership. The club may have been small in numbers but the club was a force to be reckoned with. Jim Hardie, Vice-President of the VRA, commented in the Australian Rowing magazine “Credit must be paid for Ballarat City’s successes which are remarkable for a club of only 24 competing members.” He also mentioned it must have been due to careful planning. It wasn’t! We just worked with what we had and, as everyone sculled and had been coached to be technically proficient in the scull, we could combine crews easily. Much more difficult was making sure everyone won their quota of races at each level-that did take some planning!
Left to right Back row: : Sonja Crouch, Danny Elliott, Michael Rankin, Andrew Rich, Mark Edwards, Jamie Mc Donald, Sonia Adrians. Second row: Michaela Murphy, Tim Wise, Russell McBeath, James Mc Kee, Peter Buenen, Martin Wise, Belinda Bilney. Front row: Mitch Gilbert, Liz Sliwa, Kathy Lloyd, Colin Angow, Kate Elliott, Lucinda Bilney, Stewart Moors.
As well as three premierships the club also won three Victorian championships. Kate Elliott finally won the Lightweight Sculls Championship by a canvas in a thrilling race on the Lake. Tim Wise and James McKee won only the third ever Men’s Victorian Championship by winning the Senior C pairs. They also overcame considerable difficulties to win the Victorian Sprint Pairs Championship at Footscray Regatta. At the King’s Cup and National Regatta held on Lake Barrington, Tasmania the club scored its third Australian Championship when Michael Rankin teamed with Jason Day of Bendigo to win the Mens’ Junior double sculls. The crew was coached jointly by Danny Elliott and Don Cochrane (an honorary member of Ballarat City who raced for Footscray RC).Kate Elliott placed third in the final of the Lightweight sculls which was won by New Zealander Di Michels. Our win total for the season was a staggering 94-close on a 100% success rate.
While not championship winners, also a crew worthy of note this season was the men’s intermediate eight. This crew, coached by Captain Danny Elliott and stroked by President Colin Angow, was unbeaten in its five races even despite an altercation with a bridge on the Yarra, drastic evasive action and not a little adrenaline. They won their races in the old racing eight that had been repaired by Colin. Most of the other clubs had access to newer faster fibreglass eights. If we had been able to obtain a competitive eight I’m sure they would have gone on to be as successful in Senior level. The invincible intermediate eight was Colin Angow, Michael Rankin,Tim Wise, James McKee, Peter Buenen, Andrew Rich,Russell McBeath and Mark Edwards.
The crew of Tim Wise, Danny Elliott, James McKee and Andrew Rich also won a Senior C four at the Championship Regatta on the lake. Senior C was the equivalent to Junior and it was the first Junior four won by the club since the 1960’s.Coach Danny Elliott had to fill in for Pete Buenen in the crew at very short notice. As the crew were carrying the boat out for their race, Pete, who was a very big bloke weighing about 90kgs,stepped on a rotten board on the jetty. His leg went down the hole and the sharp edges torn his leg open to the bone. He hit the deck and the crew hit panic stations. Pete was bundled off to hospital and Danny stepped in for the hardest row of his life. In the photo of the winning crew the strain shows clearly on their faces. I think it took James, the engine room of the four, days to recover.
The club dominated both men’s and women’s sculling events. I don’t think any other club won a Novice sculling event this season so strong were our scullers. When one City sculler would win his/her quota the next would step up and win his/her and so on. Every member of the intermediate eight won their novice scull races. Sonja Crouch started sculling this season and did very well in Junior and Under 16 sculls. Don Cochrane became an Honorary member of the club this year when he generously donated a new tub scull. He had seen first hand the difficulty we had boating scullers and knew how hard it was to raise money for new equipment. So in typical Don fashion he solved the problem by handing over a cheque to purchase a new Sykes tub scull. The scull was named after him and has been one of the most used and most successful boats in the shed.
Due to the hectic nature of the season social events were scarce. The Christmas Break up /Open Day was held and was a great success. The weather was less than kind but all scratch races were fiercely fought out-both in the draw for crews and eventually on the water! Despite allegations of bribery and corruption in the drawing of crews everyone had a good day.
In order to capitalise on our huge success we approached many businesses with a sponsorship proposal but failed to receive much response. Wormald/John Valves gave a donation of $200 for which the club was very grateful. We also continued the monthly Craft markets in the hall and managed to raise $2000, which was much needed for new equipment.
Everyone who competed this year was awarded a special premiership medal at the Annual Meeting. Roger Wilson who was the club’s VRA delegate attended the meeting and made the presentations. Mark Edwards received the Most Improved Novice award, with Sonja Crouch the runner-up. Michael Rankin was the Most Successful Oarsman and Tim Wise the Clubman of the year.
The Treble Treble Boys. Christmas Regattas ,1986-1987 season. At the Christmas Regattas Nagambie, Rutherglen and Yarrawonga the club scored a treble treble, winning intermediate pairs, novice pairs and novice sculls at each of the three regattas. The club entered and won 14 races for the three regattas- an outstanding feat that hadn’t been done before and will probably never be repeated. Left to right:Danny Elliott,Michael Rankin, Jamie McDonald, Tim Wise, Peter Buenen, Martin Wise, Mark Edwards.
NOTE: Apologies for the length of this post but it was an epic year. It probably needs a blog of its own. Maybe after I have finished this one, I will go back and revisit this special year. Thanks for reading to the end.