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More than sport

Filtering by Tag: rowing

We need to talk about Kevin

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Kev 1 BY PBR

I first heard about Kevin Wall when I was interviewing another rowing legend, also called Kevin: Kevin O'Brien, father of current Australian national performance director Chris O'Brien.

"Are you still coaching?" I asked, wondering if, at 83, O'Brien senior had slowed down a little from the cantankerous bugger I'd known as a teenager. Knowing a few other 83-year-old rowing legends (Irvine, Salisbury), I suspected probably not.

"Yes, I'm coaching a 41-year-old woman who who has just been selected to go to Boston for para-rowing. She's in a crew with an Irish bloke who's rowing out in Perth - Kevin Wall - perhaps you've heard of him?"

(You can read about Narelle here)

I regretfully answered that I had not. Of course, that was about to change for me, and for everyone else at WARC.

Kevin joined WARC about a month ago from Bunbury where he had been rowing in 2011 and preparing for a chance at London Paralympic Games. This yarn suggests our man missed out by the narrowest of margins on that chance to represent his native Ireland. He's now been picked up in an Australian team for the Boston Head of the Charles with Balmain Rowing Club, which could put him the running for Rio - this time in the green and gold.

Of course, he won't be the only part of the WARC family in Boston, Kev's doubles partner from Bunbury Peter Klemm will be there with Pete Panizza, past President Sten Campbell and Billl Hutton.

(This article also tells how Kevin rescued a father and son in a dangerous capsized boat incident. It would seem he's a handy man to have around.)

From my perspective as President, Kevin is the sorta bloke you pray to recruit.

  • He's Irish - and we've hosted a whole bunch of those.
  • He's picked up a few good wins.
  • He's handy with a paintball rifle (or so I'm told), and
  • He's driven to row at the highest level.

With that in mind, we'll be looking to keep you in the loop on Kev's campaign to Boston - and ultimately Rio.

The boys are back in town

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over heads headerBy DEAN NEAL(edited for clarity, apostrophes and at some points translation from "Deano" to English by PBR)

The Leschenault inlet: Famous in the rowing community for its tight, three-lane dog-leg almost-1000m course, razor-sharp rocks, exquisite side-wash and shallow sections.

This was, over the weekend of August 16 and 17, for the most part a happy hunting ground for the Westies crew that turned up and turned on.

It was the strongest results from a WARC men’s squad for quite some time… by which we mean years. Let’s face it… in recent seasons, it's easy to generalise that the Westies women have brought home the bacon(!) at various pennant regattas compared to the blokes.

(We are excluding seniors here, as frankly – they deliver for the club and repeatedly so. One of the great testaments of our club is the opportunity for us mere rowing ‘mortals’ to row with the very best rowers in our club. Wakeford, Butz, Sam.)

Not only do they enjoy rowing ‘with’ us, but also the likes of Amy Walters, Janelle Austin and Darryl Salisbury were happy to strap into the Coxswain seats at Bunbury, last weekend.

That sort of guidance and experience in the stern of our boat/s should never be taken lightly…

Maybe it’s this sort of in-boat access that is now beginning to deliver the ‘bacon’ of almost Janelle Austin’s sized bacon-blissed proportions!


Whilst the ladies once again had a very strong showing at Bunbury Saturday, it was a day where the WARC Men from development, intermediates and upwards probably – to steal a line from the Bunbury Rowing Club motto – began to as a collective, ‘pull their weight’.

No doubt the influx of fresh man-flesh from all corners of the compass, into the club rank-and-file for this season has not hurt, either.

Tim Budge waltzed into Westies with a desire to sharpen up his fitness and the minute he stepped onto the erg for the first time in years and cranked 1:50 splits without even trying, you knew he was going to be a great addition to our club – and not just as a gun rower. Tim is a top bloke with the Westies mojo and camaraderie firmly etched-into his psyche.

Since then, Tim has slotted into some Senior boat combinations and that included a strong win the ‘A’ Four at Bunbury… that has now instantly seen his ROMS score reflect more accurately his talents with an oar.

Matt Cronin is a quietly spoken rower who has ventured to the left-coast (like many) for work reasons. On the weekend Matt showed his experience and slide control to strike some great wins, results and a cool temperament to boot.

The fact he enjoyed his row to a fast finishing second place in the Mens D8 “Because it was a good race…a close race and the boat just got better and better the further we went,” shows us all that Matty has the Westies mantra well and truly intact.

Kevin Wall is another fresh face who will undoubtedly deserve a blog entry on his own at some stage soon. Saving drowning souls in his native Ireland last year whilst out training in his Single Scull, rowing nationally for Paralympic dreams and tons more is what Kev brings to the WARC table. What he took out of Bunbury was a strong and popular win in his D Double Scull race with Peter Klemm.

Speaking of D-Grade doubles… the word is out. Steve Harman can twirl two-oars LIKE A BOSS. His win with Jono Ashby was comfortably the best time of any of the 24 competitors across 6-races for the D-Doubles.

Whilst the men hauled it with eight glasses for the day, the six-glasses for the ladies showed they were far from slouches.

With Deanne Sammut taking ill on the morning of the regatta, it was left to some others in the women’s squad to pick up the slack…and that they did.

Suz Neal ended up rowing several races on the day, as did Kirsty Augustson, Janelle Austin, Bella Lie, Evelyn Doernberg and others.

Suz was particularly inspiring to several within Westies, where despite some deep cuts to her feet courtesy of those infamous bunno rocks early in the day – she got to business, stroking several boats – including one to victory via the D Coxed Four.

Bella was rewarded with a great win in the E Grade Four and the development girls this year continue to impress with strong race results every-damn-where!

A great day was then rewarded with a great evening, where the host club Bunbury put on a great spread of food and ale in the right proportions.

Many at Westies partied until the wee hours…

… oh yes, Eaton.

“Welcome to the Eaton Hangover Head Race,” chimed the starters as a collection of crews was assembled on the start-line for a 5km-jaundiced jaunt down the Collie river.

Not only is Matt Cochran impervious to pain and lactic acidosis, the man we affectionately dub the ‘Bear’ can also win races hung-over and sleep-deprived! A similarly ‘fatigued’ Nick Wakeford accompanied Cochran to a commanding win via the Mens Coxless Pair.

Whilst elite rowers can mask such fatigue, others cannot.

Enter – Dean Neal and Jimmy O’Regan.

Neal was far from fresh and fabulous entering Eaton after a night out, however Jimmy O was reeling from a bare minimum of hours slept before stepping into rowing’s most demanding boat to row: The Coxless pair.

Not the perfect preparation – aside from the minimal seat time the combination have had.

In being fair, Neal and O’Regan were happy with their first 2k…

….but Eaton is a 5km journey.

Form faltered and then as Jimmy had to deal with a nasty blood blister developing – he decided to pull a ‘Hamish Bond’ and splash his hand mid-stroke…three times.

Now Hamish Bond (Kiwi Pair fame) could row a pair sub 1:37 split all day long, where for O’Regan – 1:37 probably denoted the volume of 1 hour and 37 minutes total sleep he had enjoyed the previous night!

Thankfully all said and done, the boys made it home – mostly intact.

The other standout row of Eaton was Janelle Austin in her trusty single.  Nel is amazing - an inspiration on and off the water at Westies, and did her reputation no harm (with no broken arm/s!) meandering down the pleasing and picturesque Collie River.

Her time of 19:46 was good enough to have her row quicker than the Women's Coxed Four, Mixed Coxed Four, Mixed Coxed Quad, Men's Double Sculls, Women's Coxed Quad and the Mixed Coxed Eight – is testament to her will to win…and beyond that, perform to the outer limits of her ample potential!

With just one more pennant regatta left before the State Masters and then the big one – the WA Championships… the traditional WARC approach of stalking through the regatta season, before striking at the Championships – is looking VERY promising.

But that’s another blog, for another day...

Dear City of Perth

Peta Rule

Firstly: I couldn't go to Bunvegas so if anyone would like to compose a guest blog on the WARC assault on the South West, please feel free. Now, on to serious matters.

We've been asked to provide some information to the City of Perth about our access requirements to allow a potential new eastern access way out of Riverside Drive.

The way it was explained to me by the City of Perth is there were some senior managers who wanted to know why WARC could not reverse trailers out of the eastern entrance, or just turn trailers around in the loading zone of the Club.

I thought I would share the answers to these questions with you, should it ever come up in casual conversation.


Dear Sir,

I understand City of Perth was keen to have some more information about the access requirements of the West Australian Rowing Club on Riverside Drive.


WARC is a heritage-listed rowing club with about 100 members aged from 14 to over 80, and we have one member on the current Australian team.

The club was founded in 1868 and has been located in its current position on Perth water since 1905. Our club is on a riverbed lease with the Department of Transport and we hold a jetty licence.

WARC has dealt with the City of Perth for more than 30 years on issues associated with the access road on Riverside Drive. Fortunately there have been few issues raised in the past decade that have resulted in any conflict, thanks to a great deal of negotiation and good will on both sides.

Current situation:

When the Barrack Square redevelopment was announced, we immediately started liaising first with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority and later with Leighton Broad, and we are comfortable both groups are well aware of our trailer size and access requirements. Please see evidence of our correspondence attached. The information provided in this document has been provided to both bodies.

I acknowledge the frustration those involved in this project at the City of Perth may have at this latest development of a need for a new exit from the Riverside service lane. I would like to make the point the WA Rowing Club flagged this issue as early as 2012, and were assured our requirements were well understood.

For your information, these are the dimensions of the trailer we use to transport boats.

trailer dimensions


We transport our boats on average once a fortnight (two trips each time) during winter, and probably once every three weeks or so from September to March. Summer is much more unpredictable as we are at the mercy of Rowing Australia requirements.



The question put to WARC would be whether it would be possible to reverse the trailer along Riverside Drive.

flush surfaceIt is the view of the WARC Committee this poses a very significant safety risk. The boat trailer itself is only slightly narrower than the service lane, and to the east of WARC, there is no safety bollards that would prevent a trailer potentially being reversed into the river.

There is almost no margin for error in reversing this trailer that would not result in either damage to City of Perth property to the north, or catastrophic injury to rowing equipment, vehicles and potentially people to the south.

The question was put to WARC whether we could turn the trailer around in the loading zone of WARC and use the eastern exit.

We also considered this. At 12m without boats, it would need significant maneuvering in our loading zone and we are not confident that can be achieved.

sharp turn

More significantly, the exit to the East would require a very sharp left-hand turn that would put at risk street lights, rubbish bins, and of course the boats themselves. (see illustration).

The advice we provided to Leighton Broad was as follows:

trailer options

Our first preference is an exit to the immediate west of WARC. This would alleviate any future conflict with the Barrack Square development and allow safe and easy access.

Our second preference is an additional exit to the east of WARC. This exit does pose some safety concerns around loading boats in the dark at close proximity to the river, however we have brainstormed some strategies to mitigate this increased risk.

Our third preference is an exit to the west of WARC as illustrated above.

Our main aims in relation to these exits are as follows:

  1. That risk of injury and accident associated with boat loading to our members is minimised. Almost all serious injuries sustained by WARC rowers have occurred in the loading, landing and unloading process.
  2. That WARC can continue to operate as a competitive rowing club and get our boats out of the club for competition.

Our desire is for a permanent solution to be found that would be acceptable for the City of Perth, Barrack Square, the MRA and the 100 members of the WA Rowing Club.

I believe this is possible but do hold the view that compromise will be required. I hope this document clearly explains the compromises we can make and look forward to hearing about some permanent, ongoing solutions to this difficulty.

Peta Rule President 2014



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Amazing-red-paint-splatterOk it's not exactly baconballing. It's paintballing, but it's still awesome and it's something different to beating each other up on ergs. When: SUNDAY 24th AUGUST

Time: 0800-1200, then lunch in the Swan Valley

Where: Paintball Skirmish Gnangara Road, Near the corner of West Swan Road, Henley Brook

Cost: $75 per person (includes gear, games, sausage sizzle & 600 paint balls)

The deal: Numbers are limited to 40 people so the first 40 to pay and confirm their spot. We have a tentative Wesley bus (22 seater) which would be $10 extra (pay on the day). We will then head to a winery or brewery for lunch

If you are not interested in paintballing, but would like to come to lunch, that is also an option.

What we need from you:

RSVP to with the following;

1. Paintballing:

  • Yes/No. The first 22 people to respond and pay in full will be on the bus.

2. Bus:

  • Yes/No. There is a chance the bus won't happen but we still need to know.

3. Lunch: 

  • Yes/No. Lunch has not yet been booked as it will depend on numbers. However, if you're on the bus... you're coming to lunch.

So – your email to me will look like one of the following responses:

a. Yes to paintballing, bus and lunch. b. Yes to paintballing and lunch (you are thus responsible for your own transport) c. Yes to paintballing, no to bus and no to lunch (you are thus responsbile for transport to and from paintballing only.) d. No to paintballing, yes to lunch. (you will be responsible for your own transport to and from the Swan Valley)

Nell will then write back with relevant banking details. Once your money has transferred through you will receive a confirmation email.

Let the banter begin.


Rowing in slow motion

Peta Rule Dean and Trent Neal continue to impress with their remarkable camerawork. WARC is blessed to have this sort of talent both on - and off - the water.

If you can, put this video on full screen, sit back and let yourself get goose-bumps as you see the precision, power and beauty of our sport.

And also some awesome facial hair from the captain.

Feedback on this video is for burgeoning athletes, this is not just a beautiful thing to watch but also has a practical application. The smooth finish sequence of Wakeford and Matty is a joy to watch and something to aim for.

Red Nose Regatta

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01 red nose regatta Here is a bit of a debrief on the Red Nose Regatta.

It started with a name:


If you got through that without needing a tissue to wipe away tears of happiness/sadness and love, then forge ahead: Dean then got on 94.5 and talked up our efforts with Adrian Barich on the Dead Set Legends. Listen to it here.

And if that wasn't enough, journalist Natalie Brown from the West decided to share the love on their website and on page 13 of the newspaper as well.

In total, we raised about $400 for SIDS and Kids WA, and we hope this will grow into the future.

[gallery ids="793,794,795,796,797,798,799,800,801,802,803,804,805,806,807,808,809,810,811,812,813,814,815,816,817,818,819,820,821,822,823,824,825,826,827,828,829,830"]

Dean and Suz's story

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A story of love, loss, recovery... and rowing. This is Dean and Suz Neal:

Dean and Suze 1

When they're not travelling the world and posting photographs of their adventures on facebook in a very effective effort to make their mates jealous, they can be found doing this:

Dean and Suze

So when the Neals dug deep to donate to a new boat at the WA Rowing Club, there was much rejoicing.

Most of Dean and Suz's mates know they are a beautiful couple with a beautiful family who still, after almost 30 years of marriage, are very much in love. So it wasn't hard to decide to name the boat in their honour.

suz and dean name

The Trent Damon was named on June 14 at a short ceremony at the WA Rowing Club. And with permission, this is the story behind the name, as told by Dean Neal.

During mid 1993 (yep THAT long ago!) Suzanne during pregnancy developed Toxaemia/Preeclampsia and was seriously ill, as a result she landed in hospital for several weeks (you can imagine how THAT would go down with her lol)!

Due to the health risk to mum and baby, an emergency C-section was performed to deliver our first borne Damon... 9 weeks premature.

Thankfully the staff at King Edward were amazing. In a matter of a few weeks, Damon was later transferred to a regional private hospital (Kelmscott) and Suz was able to go home. A couple of weeks later after that, Damon came home too.

It was around this time I secured a career through my tertiary studies as an IT Support Office at PMH! My work was coming together, my family was at the time too!

Then on the morning of October 14, 1993 - only days after Damon had passed his medical with flying colours and was around 11 weeks old and with no warning, I woke up to go to work and kiss him on the cheek, I then discovered he had died. He was still warm to touch... it was THAT recent I had discovered him...

I was later told that Damon's premature birth had nothing to do with him dying to SIDS.

By this stage - he looked like a healthy, normal baby. That just made the rocky road, that much rockier.

In a panic, I woke Suzanne and rather than ring an ambulance, we rushed him into the car with us and drove to the Kelmscott Private Hospital that was quite close and bolted in through the front doors carrying Damon. The sight of Suze trying to deliver CPR to our baby at the time was something I will never, ever forget....horrible. Horrible.

As we arrived at the hospital, the staff were amazing in their efforts but it was ultimately efforts in vain.

It was a mortifying day to say the least. I was 23 at the time and to confront already having outlived a child was dreadful obviously. To see hospital staff crying, even the police sargent coming in to confirm death and seeing him sob uncontrollably and hugging us himself is seared in my brain, forever.

It was almost impossible to deal with. My work suffered, I couldn't even go outside without fear. Through it all, Suzanne was amazing, she let her emotions out from the start and was strong.

Then as Suzanne was pregnant again and almost to the year - October 1994 - Trent Damon Neal was born. 1997 saw our daughter Felicity born and thankfully these two are fit and strong and wonderful kids. We are very proud of them.

However, I still hadn't completely dealt with what had happened to us was partying hard, not watching what I was eating or drinking. In 1999 I noticed I had become a 125kg 'big boy' and decided I wanted to be a fit and healthy husband and Dad. I wanted to run after my kids basically - and catch them!

It was at this time Suzanne through her mate Deb Mason, decided to take up rowing at the West Australian Rowing Club (Westies) - and she suggested I come along too... knowing my new-found desire to lose weight and be healthier.

Over the next 18-months, I fell in love with the people at the West Australian Rowing Club and proceeded to lose 40kg over that period by rowing hard and erg-ing ass off!

For the first time in the longest time, I felt well in mind, body and spirit.

In 2001, I completed a Half Ironman Triathlon and rest assured that was as far removed from where I was a couple of years earlier than you could get!

Later that year, our family moved to Sydney for work reasons and we stopped rowing. However the desire to remain fit and healthy on the back of what I discovered at Westies remained. We moved around for a few years but through it all, we missed rowing. We really did. It was my favourite sport.

I have cycle-toured thousands of Ks... climbed Spanish Alps on a Mountain bike... but whenever we saw glassy, still water...anywhere... Suz and I would always remark "Man...we could row the hell out of that!"

Rowing recruits every muscle, joint, ligament and sinew. Also your soul... yes it requires commitment from even THAT during those assorted moments of lactic acid bliss.

What I discovered by rowing, was that it opened up new opportunities for Suzanne and I.

From not being able to even walk down a busy mall in 1993 due to fears and phobias brought on by the loss of Damon, to where I am directing, presenting and producing motorsport TV in front of hundreds of thousands of people is testament to what I learnt!

Then in 2012, my career saw me relocate back to Perth. As soon as we made that decision - Suz and I said straight up... "AWESOME, we can row again at Westies!"

As before, rowing at the West Australian Rowing Club is wonderful, enriching, relaxing and in some ways enlightening.

The values of togetherness, teamwork, mental strength and tenacity are always on show when you row in this environment.

The WARC Club is awesome, a wide array of personalities and people who are as 'family' to me already as anybody.

Bottom line - and Suz can speak for herself-  for me... rowing opened my eyes all those years ago to make every day count...and get busy living - for friend and family....but most of all... for yourself.

We support this Red Nose Day regatta passionately... simply because I made the mistake all those years ago in NOT seeking counsel or help.

To lose a child in this dreadful way does not mean you are a bad parent... its instinct to appropriate blame on oneself when something like this happens. But it's not your fault.

Also I want friends and family of those who lose someone to SIDS to not stand go and see these people, to hug these people, to tell them that you love them and that whilst you don't have all the answers as to why this happened, that you will always, always be there for them.

Also time does truly heal... though the scars of course, will remain as a timely reminder to live life. Simple.

We've been supporting the Red Nose Regatta for June 21 where we've invited rowers throughout Perth to buy a $2 red nose and put it on their bowball to raise awareness and funds for SIDS and Kids WA.

Check out this photo gallery of the boat naming - with thanks to Mike Smith for snapping on the day.

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Waving not drowning

Peta Rule

This post includes:

  • Today
  • Coffeegate
  • Speedboats
  • Why we enter A-grade 
  • Rowing makes me... pix


This turned out to be a five-minute interval:

5 minsSo we all said:


And then this happened:

winged keel


So turns out we ended up with a winged keel on the Irvine, and everyone did their 1500s on foot carrying a boat rather than out on the water. Of course, we need to say thanks to everyone who helped save the wayward rowers, particularly the random joggers who helped carry stuff, Nick B, John, Bobs, Shaun - who went all Hasselhoff to save the UWA rowers stranded in South Perth - some other people probably, and Nel. Nel pretty much took control and made sure no one panicked. Happily everyone is safe and sound - except other John who did have some fairly impressive bleeding going on. I am sure we'll have a post-crisis gear audit at some point to evaluate any damage, at a guess it was just the Irvine that took the hit.

At a guess, mornings like this happen once or twice a year. It starts out deceptively calm... then BAM: Poseidon turns up to smite us all. Of course I could say we all need to check the weather more blah blah blah, but I know you're not going to. I guess all we can really say is: At least we're not UWA.


It is possible I'm the only person who has found this situation ridiculous. Let me know. Here's the situation: Venues West at Champion Lakes has instructed Rowing WA to instruct clubs like WARC to not sell coffee when we host regattas.

Instead, Venues West is going to call out a coffee van (as we have done on occasion) and the profits from said coffee van will go to them - and not to clubs. We usually pick up $300 to $500 from coffee vans, sometimes a lot more.

I thought this was so ridiculous I wrote to Venues West. Check out the Coffeegate letter here. I will let you know if and when I hear back from them.


Please do be aware when carrying speedboats that it is worth waiting for additional help. Graham MacGregor has reported he has sustained a back injury from over-zealous dinghy carrying activity, and I know he's not the only one. For the girls, you will find it a lot easier if you have three people on each heavy corner. Guys, don't be stupid: Team up and share the load. Do not try to carry a corner by yourself. That includes you, Butz.

Why race A-grade?

All top WARC crews have been "racing up" in the A-grade events this year. We haven't always done that in the past, so here's a quick explanation on why we're doing this:

1. Quite often, the WARC crew is fast enough to race in A. In fact, when reviewing results, a WARC crew that places third or fourth in A-grade would have won the equivalent B event, very easily. Winning a race by a mile is good fun every now and again, but it's not a good look for the sport and it's not good for athletes, either.

2. WARC is a major club. We have an athlete in the national squad and are home to some of the most respected athletes in the sport.

3. WARC will not win the overall pennant this year. We haven't grown at the same rate as Curtin and UWA in particular which are bulking out the lower grade events. We might have a chance shot at a grade pennant, and we might as well give A-grade a crack. We are currently fourth in the A-grade pennant behind Freo, UWA and SRRC. We have a good chance of moving up to third at the next regatta.

5. Swans needs someone to keep 'em honest. There's nothing like a hard-fought race.

6. And of course, there's always the "personal points" argument. It goes like this: The more events you win, the lower your personal ROMS score goes. This reduces the flexibility you have as an athlete to row in different types of boats. A few wins in a B-eight and you'll find you've gone from D-grade to B-grade in one regatta.

"Racing up" is a challenge. It's about taking on the big kids in the playground, going the full distance and being proud of who we are and what we can do. Getting a cheap win will score you a glass with a club logo on it (which washes of in the dishwasher anyway) and ROMS points that make your rowing more restricted... but it won't make you more awesome.

Be more awesome. Row up.

Here are a few pix from the past week or so:

rowing collage 3

chad pic 4bacon