A visit from a former Olympian is proving a real shot in the arm for Mount Albert Grammar School's rowing culture.
Gold medallist and MAGS old boy Shane O'Brien stopped by the college while on holiday from his headmaster's role at a English-speaking school in Dubai.
Mr O'Brien offered words of encouragement and advice to the school's fledgling rowers.
"I went out with some of the kids down to West End, it was lovely to see them out in winter doing the hard yards."
The former athlete won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the coxless four event.
Then, in 1986, he won a silver for the coxless four and a bronze medal for the eights in Scotland.
He says the key to Olympic success is more about hard work than talent.
"It's not glamorous or anything, it's awful," he laughs. "But they are doing it, and it's nice that it's starting up again here."
Mr O'Brien has strong ties to the school. He has a room named after him and taught there in the late 1980s, around the same time the school's rowing culture began to lag.
Sane-Va Ginnen, 16, is the first boy to have his name on the MAGS rowing captain board since 1985.
Sane-Va and vice-captain Grayson Dauphin, 16, say it was good hearing encouraging words from one of their sporting heroes.
"He praised us for the lifestyle we've chosen," Sane-Va says. "He said getting up early in the winter is half the battle won, which is crazy because he would have had it 10 times harder."
Grayson, who has Olympic aspirations, says they start training at 6.30am most days.
"It's quite hard at the start of the season but you get used to it after a while," he says. "I'd like to be in the Olympics so that means day-in and day-out working hard and keeping your goals in mind."
Headmaster Dale Burden says it is good to see his students so passionate. He is unsure why the school's rowing teams folded all those years ago.
"It went off the radar in the mid-1980s and has come back over the last few years."
Mr Burden says a group of old boy rowers were keen to get it going in the school again.
"And I was certainly very supportive of that."
He says the school is aiming for 40 rowers this year, with a goal to eventually have 100.
"It takes a while to build," Mr O'Brien says. "But there is quite a pool of kids, it's a lot stronger than when I was here."
The group of rowing revivalists includes 84-year-old Kerry Ashby, Brett Beavis, Dan Ashby and Howard Perry.
Mr Ashby is a former rowing champ who won a silver medal for rowing in the 1950 British Empire Games, which is now known as the Commonwealth Games.
"We started up the MAGS Row Club in 1997," he says.
"But it didn't get operational effectively until 2009, and it was last year that the intake took off."
The group devised the emblem for the school's rowing club, which was inspired by a photograph of a West End rower.
"We also devised the rowing uniform, which is light blue, and all the things that were essential in reviving Mt Albert rowing."
Mr Ashby's history with MAGS is long and deep.
He was the school's rowing captain in the 1940s and coached rowing at the school from 1966 to 1978.
Mr Ashby also has Olympic ties and in 1976 he was the manager of the New Zealand rowing team in Montreal.
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