A Narrative History of Australian Rowing, 1770–2016

  • Robin Poke

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis describes in detail the beginnings, development and progress of rowing in
    Australia through fifteen chapters that set out chronologically how the sport transitioned from
    the days of settlement, the early watermen, and to the 19th century and the onset of
    professional sculling. Then came, in the 20th century, the era of pure amateurism before, given
    the massive funding in contemporary sport, it reverted at the very least to the semi-professional
    The initial chapters describe the early use of boats by settlers and the exploits of the earliest
    professional scullers, who captured the imagination not just of the citizens of New South
    Wales but of all the colonies. Then comes the rapid expansion of rowing and sculling at all
    levels: club, colonial and national, and the onset of the amateur ideology. The transition from
    inter-colonial to inter-state competition is described, as is the emergence of women’s rowing.
    Then comes Australia’s growing involvement at the international level between the two world
    wars. The retirement of professional sculler Bobby Pearce and the eventual decline of
    professional sculling are discussed.
    A continuing swing away from amateurism towards at least semi-professionalism is seen.
    Also described is the improvement in the administration of national rowing, at the hands,
    initially, of John Coates, assisted by John Boultbee. Australia’s first professional Director of
    Coaching, Reinhold Batschi is introduced.
    An extraordinary decade in the history of Australian rowing arrives, during which the sport
    experiences hitherto unforeseen success and at the end of which hosts an Olympic Regatta. At
    the heart of this success are the stunning results obtained by a crew that had become known as
    the Oarsome Foursome.
    The period between the celebrating of a successful ‘home’ Olympic Games in 2000 and the
    London Olympic Games in 2012 is described. In the interim were the Athens 2004 and
    Beijing 2008 Games. The thesis ends with a discussion about Rowing Australia’s high
    performance plans for the future of rowing and contemplation about the process of writing a
    narrative history of rowing
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Canberra
    SupervisorGreg Battye (Supervisor), Keith Lyons (Supervisor), Mitchell Whitelaw (Supervisor), Allan Edwards (Supervisor) & Anthony Beaton (Supervisor)

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