Petone provide Wellington Rowing Club with motivation for record medal haul

Wellington Rowing Club's national champion novice quadruple skulls women's team, from left: Vanessa McCormack, ...
STEVE MCARTHUR/ROWING CELEBRATION

Wellington Rowing Club's national champion novice quadruple skulls women's team, from left: Vanessa McCormack, Bernadette Fischer, Laura-Meg McGlone, Valerie Chan and Breidi McDonald (unseen, cox).

Watching the Petone Rowing Club streak away with 13 medals at the 2014 rowing club nationals was a big wake up call for their rivals across the harbour.

Rowing New Zealand named Petone as their club of the year that year, while Wellington Rowing Club could barely qualify a boat for an A final, so club captain Joe O'Neill said it was time they had a good hard look at themselves.

"Two years ago we went to the same national championships and performed badly and they performed well and it sort of galvanised us.

Valerie Chan, Laura-Meg McGlone, Bernadette Fischer, Vanessa McCormack and Breidi McDonald (cox) receive their medals ...
STEVE MCARTHUR/ROWING CELEBRATIO

Valerie Chan, Laura-Meg McGlone, Bernadette Fischer, Vanessa McCormack and Breidi McDonald (cox) receive their medals for winning the novice quadruple skulls at rowing's club nationals.

"We decided to defend our position in Wellington as the top club. I think their success two years ago really was a catalyst for us to come back."

READ MORE: *Murray and Hunter score upset pair win

And come back they did, collecting four medals in 2015 before taking 11 at last week's regatta - nine from their club rowers and two from their elites.

James Hunter (left), in his Wellington Rowing Club singlet, partners Tom Murray to win the mens premier pair at rowing ...
GEORGE HEARD FAIRFAX NZ

James Hunter (left), in his Wellington Rowing Club singlet, partners Tom Murray to win the mens premier pair at rowing nationals.

"I had a look back through our history books - there are more events now than say 20 years ago - but we've never had more than 10 medals at a national championships."

The club sent 34 athletes to the championships, competing in 20 events, reaching the finals in all the events they entered.

The women's side of the club enjoyed particular success, reaching nine A finals and one B final, converting seven of the finals into medals, including a gold in the novice quadruple scull. That was the first women's gold medal for the club in more than 10 years.

O'Neill, who coaches the women's team while Chris Jones coaches the men, said the haul of medals was just reward for a long winter of hard work.

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"The thing about rowing is the medals are won in the winter, you do the work in the winter and they hand them out in the summer.

"Wellington is in a really strong position at the moment and that is despite the fact we don't have an awful lot of water to work with. But what we lose in water time, we make up for in fitness."

Petone managed to collect three medals in the club competition, while also getting at least five medals from their elites. Star Boating Club also gained a bronze in the mens club single sculls.

O'Neill said such a good showing from the Wellington rowing clubs meant the sport was as strong as it has ever been in the capital. 

"I think so, certainly from the adult perspective. The growth with the adults is huge, we've got more numbers now than we've had in the last 20 or 30 years. "

Wellington Rowing Club had made a concerted effort to recruit more rowers after Petone's success two years ago, O'Neill said. 

"That's why we've been successful. You look at all the big clubs - West End, Avon - their success is built through the same people turning up year in, year out, it takes a long time to win a medal at nationals and a long time to become a good rower.

"We have a history of getting people in, having one season and then they leave, and I think a lot of clubs in the country have that."

Wellington Rowing Club's James Hunter partnered with Tom Murray in the central boat which caused one of the upsets of the regatta when they won the mens premier pair, handing world champion Hamish Bond a rare defeat when he rowed with James Lassche.

 - Stuff

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