Robin Poke’s Thesis on Australian Rowing

Robin Poke’s thesis is with the binders. This marks a remarkable step in Robin’s journey to a doctorate at the University of Canberra. He has responded to the detailed comments of his examiners and all his changes are now incorporated into the thesis thanks to the wonderful editorial assistance provided by Bruce Coe.

His 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.

Photo Credits

Ned Trickett’s Race (Ruth’s Reminiscences, Grand Pacific Tours)

Ross crowned world champion (Paralympics Australia)

The joy of supporting a Division Two football team

This season I have an analytic commitment to follow a Division Two football team. It has been fascinating to return to the Division and note the data available (link).

I first met Division Two and its equivalents in the late 1950s as a very young supporter of my local team, Wrexham (link). My home town, Buckley, was linked to Wrexham by diesel train. Each home game the train picked up supporters en route and dropped them near the Racecourse ground.

At the time I supported the team they were in the old Fourth Division of the league and were struggling. Despite this there was a vocal and optimistic support for what everyone thought was a local team.

Wikipedia notes of that time:

But their performances did improve following the appointment of Ken Barnes as player-manager. He led Wrexham straight back to promotion to the third division in his first season in charge and oversaw the 10–1 trouncing of Hartlepool United, which is still the club’s record league victory.

I was at the Hartlepool game in March 1962. It was the first time I had seen so many goals scored at one game.

I did continue to support Wrexham throughout the 1960s. I waited after each game to collect autographs and then scramble back for the last train home.

These memories have been brought back as I look at data from 2018-2019. They remind me of the importance of a local team supported by vocal local supporters.

Photo Credits

Wales versus Ireland football international at Wrexham (The National Library of Wales, no known copyright restrictions)

Wrexham to Bidston line (

Celebrating the Peace Regatta at Henley in 2019

This week, at Henley-on-Thames, celebrations of the 1919 Peace Regatta will take place. There is a large number of Australians that have arrived for the event including the sport historians Bruce Coe (link) and Robin Poke (link).

There are resources to inform this event. These include:

  • Henley Royal Regatta (link)
  • The King’s Cup (link)
  • Henley Twitter Account (link)
  • Leander (link)
  • Australian Rowing History (link)
  • The Daily Telegraph (link)

Photo Credit

Welcome (Henley Royal Regatta, Twitter)