Robin Poke’s PhD Submission: A Narrative History of Australian Rowing

Robin Poke holding his PhD Submission

Robing Poke submitted his PhD thesis for examination today at the University of Canberra. It is the culmination of six years assiduous research that is titled A Narrative History of Australian Rowing 1770-2016.

I have been fortunate to be Robin’s primary supervisor.

I believe it to be a magnum opus in the history of rowing. It extends to two volumes and shares some remarkable primary sources to build the narrative.

The abstract is:

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 level.

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.

Robin at the Graduate Office at UC handing in his thesis

We await with great interest the external examiners’ responses in 2019.

Photo Credits

Robin Poke (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Australian Paralympic History Project: October 2018 Workshop

A picture of the APC workshop with four of the participants creating and editing content for Wikipedia
Workshop participants

The Australian Paralympic History Project held a workshop in Sydney on the weekend of 27 and 28 October.

Tony Naar shared news of the workshop on the Project’s Facebook page (link).

Seven people attended the workshop. The project team were delighted to welcome a new member, Cecelia Hutchinson-Parsons. Cecelia came to the workshop after a week of volunteering at the Invictus Games in Sydney.

Cecelia created a Wikipedia article about the Iceroos (link) and helped update the 2018 Invictus Games article.

A picture of the Iceroos team
The Iceroos

The APC’s CEO Lynne Anderson visited the workshop as did the APC’s  Communications General Manager Tim Mannion. They met the workshop organiser, Tony Naar and Cecilia, as well as Ross Mallett, Greg Blood, Gary Osmond and Patricia Ollerenshaw.

Patricia is working on articles about the 2000 Paralympics at the moment.

Tony noted of the workshop:

Creating and updating Wikipedia articles about Australian Paralympic sport relies almost exclusively on a handful of volunteers, who do an incredible job. As a result of discussions on the weekend, we have decided that we will now pursue a ‘small scale’ approach of catch-ups in the cities where we have active editors and seek to expand these groups by individual contact and one-on-one support.

He added:

We desperately need to expand the core group of contributors to maintain this unbelievable project.

I do try to keep an eye on this project. It has made an enormous impact on the open sharing of Paralympic stories with an Australian focus. I do monitor the articles and hope to be more active in supporting the editing of the articles created and maintained by the project team.

For anyone thinking of finding ways to use their creative talents, this is a project most worthy of consideration.

Photo Credits

Sydney Workshop (Tony Naar)

Iceroos (World Para Ice Hockey)

Using quantiles to explore AFL performance

I have been exploring the quantile function in R as a way to explore AFL performance.

The generic function quantile produces sample quantiles corresponding to the given probabilities. The smallest observation corresponds to a probability of 0 and the largest to a probability of 1.

I have data for 12 rounds of the 2018 AFL competition.

I wondered if the quantile measures might give me a game signature.

My data are:

For the teams that have won games

For teams that have lost games

For game outcomes

In Round 12, I looked at Geelong and Sydney in terms of winning quantile profiles (how good a winner were they?) and North Melbourne and St Kilda in terms of losing quantile profiles (what kind of losing team were they?).

My quantile signatures for these games are:

(Note quantiles are expressed in terms of winning performance for Geelong and losing performance for North Melbourne. Geelong’s final quarter is rated highly in winning terms (top 20%). North Melbourne were in the top 20% of losing performances in the third quarter.)

(Sydney’s first quarter performance was in the top 5% of winning performances. St Kilda elevated their losing performance in the second and fourth quarters to top 25% of losing performances.)

Discussion

Exploring quantiles in R has helped me think about how to visualise games and express the competitive nature of these games.

I am mindful that I am using a macro indicator for this visualisation but the ability to specify quantiles in a growing database of AFL performance seems promising.

They might also help with early prediction of game outcome.

Photo Credit

Footy (Beau Lebens, CC BY-NC 2.0)