Rowers training for season 2020/21

By Robert Muir

Being largely a summer season sport, rowers had all but completed their season or regattas before the COVID-19 restrictions came into force.

“As this is our off season we have just been able to get back in the boat. To meet the COVID social distance requirements single sculls are suitable. So being outside on the water in groups less than 10 is working,” much decorated Corowa Rowing Club Life Member Wes Canny told The Free Press.

“The restrictions came at the end of the rowing season. It was unfortunate that the school girls regatta was called after the first day of competition. The bright side was our crews recorded fast qualifying times and a confidence boost moving forward.”

The club’s first regatta for the upcoming season is in Bendigo around the third Saturday in October, usually bypassing the September regattas due to winter sport finals.

With 117 members last year, Corowa Rowing Club is a fantastic club to be a part of according to also much decorated Life Member Robert Eyers.

“It welcomes everyone warmly, everyone is made to feel a part of the club,” he said. “We have great volunteers at the club and the committee is easy to work with numerous of us been on there for 15-plus years.”

It is an all-round team effort but people like club president of three years Robert O’Halloran, immediate past president and captain for 16 years Eyers and 19-year captain Canny are instrumental in making the club successful and popular with devotion to duty which includes highly rated coaching.

Canny, for example, was awarded the Rowing Victoria Coaches award in 2010 and was named 2019 Vic Sport Victorian Community Coach of the Year.

His highlights include coaching the Victorian Lightweight women’s quad scull at the Nationals in 2019, coaching Corowa crews at National and Victorian Championships, and taking a rower out for his or her first time on the water.

The crews he coaches row over a variety of distances. The shorter races are the sprints over 350m and 500m. Club events are over the 1000m course while the higher levels row the full 2,000m distance and there are time trails over 7.2km.

In the old days rowers used to row over 1600-2000 metres but in Masters now it is over 1000 metres.

On the river training options exist to row either upstream or downstream from the Federation Bridge down to the Corowa Golf Club, a lot depending on other boat usage and water levels.

Off the water in 2009 Eyers was awarded The Kath Bennett Award from Rowing Victoria for assisting in the growth and success of Corowa Rowing Club.

On the water over the years he has been part of many winning crews from local level through to National Levels, through all age groups including at Masters level.

Eyers has also won Most Successful Oarsman and Best Club Person several times. He has achieved great success in coaching crews over the years, with numerous crews representing Corowa Rowing Club at State Level and five individuals/crews at National Level; with two individuals and one coxed quad winning medals at the National Level.

In 2003 Eyers had the honour of having a boat named after him at the rowing club - a Racing Coxed Quad Scull. 

Because of his outstanding involvement with the Corowa Rowing Club, he was awarded Corowa Shire Citizen of Year in 2008.

The shire citizen and the Kath Bennett awards were due to Eyers’ first six years of presidency, overseeing the club rebuild the existing shed and update the entire fleet of rowing boats and gym equipment through community involvement, grant applications and members of the club.

Boats are club-owned and through hard work by members, the club possesses a first class fleet of boats, singles, doubles, quads and octa sculls.

“My biggest highlight would be coaching all the kids, especially those to a National Level,” Eyers said.

“Chloe Holland is our first ever National medallist winning Gold in a composite coxed quad scull, then we had the five young men - John Webb, Lewis McCrum, John Raschke, Jake Kruen and Harrison Borg – who represented the club in the Under 17 coxed quad scull and won a Bronze medal in 2011. It is very hard to get five dedicated rowers the same age from a small club. 

“Brad Pearsall represented the club for three years at the Nationals winning a total of six medals in both single scull, double scull and quad scull.”

Eyers and Canny love their rowing. “Rowing is a low impact outdoor sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and gender to any level they wish from social rowing to competitive at National Level,” Eyers said.

“Rowing is one of the last true amateur sports with nobody receiving payment at any level.

I hope to be like our oldest member still getting on the water in his 80s enjoying the sport.”

Canny said: “Rowing is an Olympic Sport and competed around the world. The sport is amateur and clubs share knowledge and work together to assist rowers to meet their goals. Corowa Rowing Club is run by a committee of volunteers with over 100 members. The club promotes rowers to achieve their goals to row at National level or social row on the Murray River.”

Recently turned 52-year-old Canny began his rowing career at age 12, at Essendon Rowing Club, moving to Corowa in 1996 then over the river to Wahgunyah in 2002.

For 24 years, he has worked at Nestle Uncle Tobys in the maintenance department and has always found the river a drawcard.

Eyers, 62, started as a Coxswain at Wahgunyah Rowing Club when 14-years-of age because “my brother ‘Horse’ rowed there”, the fitter and machinist with 28 years at Nestle Ucle Tobys explained.

“At the age of 17 I joined Corowa Rowing Club as a rower. I rowed a lot with Garry Cook, but did row in a lot of crew boats over the years.” Born in Corowa, Eyers’ homes have included Perth, Darwin and Cairns over the years.

Corowa Rowing Club is excited about the draft Federation Council Masterplans currently on display seeking public comment.

“The plans are sensational with the sporting hubs’ river access boat ramps and walking tracks,” plumbing business owner, 57-year-old Corowa resident all his life, fine rower and terrific clubman, Mr O’Halloran said.

“It will be such a boost for the town as far as community and tourism, and sporting clubs are concerned.”