Sydney Rowing Club

Sydney Rowing Club is the oldest rowing club in New South Wales, Australia formed in 1870. It has occupied its current site on Port Jackson's Parramatta River at Abbotsford Point since 1874. The club has a focus on its high performance and elite rowing programs and as of the 2021 Olympic Games, sixty-eight rowers from the club had competed at the Olympic Games rowing in one hundred and two of the seats raced by Australian Olympic crews. Over one hundred club members have achieved national selection.[1]

Sydney Rowing Club
Sydney Rowing Club 1955.jpg
Image showing the rowing club's blade colours
MottoMens Sana in Corpore Sano
LocationAbbotsford, Sydney, Australia
Home waterParramatta River, Sydney Harbour
Founded6 March 1870
AffiliationsNSW Rowing Association
Bennelong Point & the 1st Sydney Rowing Club shed 1880

Club historyEdit

A group of sportsmen interested in the advancement of amateur rowing met at the Oxford Hotel in Sydney on 6 March 1870 and the Sydney Rowing club was born. George Thornton a former mayor of Sydney was the club's first President. Its first club house was on a site adjacent to the current Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Point. That clubhouse was opened in August 1870 by His Excellency, the 4th Earl Belmore, the then Governor of New South Wales.[1]

The club was founded on the principle of amateurism under the notion popular at the time, that manual labourers being as they were paid for their effort and toil had an unfair advantage in races involving physical exertion. When the New South Wales Rowing Association was formed in the 1870s with some of the SRC directors as driving forces, races were to be conducted by bona-fide amateurs only.[2] The colours of the Sydney Rowing Club were initially blue and white. They were altered to light blue before 1886. The club motto, "Mens sana in corpore sano" ("A healthy mind in a healthy body") was adopted at the very outset while the club's crest was adopted in 1910.[3]

In 1874 the club's Directors arranged for the purchase of a property known as the Red Cow Inn on the point at Abbotsford, seven miles up river from Circular Quay. The Inn had abundant accommodation being located at the end of Great North Road where it met the ferry from Bedlam Point (Gladesville). The site was initially a training and recreation "branch" facility with accommodation for members to stop-over. In 1888 the club received notice from the Government to quit its site at Circular Quay and secured another site on the western side of Woolloomooloo Bay between Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the Domain Baths, where the headquarters of the Club remained until 1947.[1]

The branch site had been significantly developed in the interim 70-year period and in 1947 the boatshed at Woolloomooloo was dismantled and rebuilt at Abottsford which marked the relocation of all club facilities to Abbotsford.

Competition history & representative successEdit

Bobby Pearce at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

For eight successive years from 1880 to 1888 the SRC won the New South Wales Rowing Association's premiership pennant, a run that wouldn't be matched until 1929 by the Mosman Rowing Club.[4] The Association's premiership was again won continuously from 1903/04 to 1908/09 and when a junior pennant was introduced in 1908/09 that was won too.

Bobby Pearce was the dominant world sculler from the late 20s and along with Herb Turner at the national level in the early 30s, they established Sydney's credentials as a force in single sculls. Merv Wood continued to shine the club's light in sculling in the 40s and 50s.

Following World War II, Australian Olympic teams increased in size; the rowing squad began to send larger crews & boats and Sydney club rowers contributed significantly to representative squads up till the mid 1970s and to a lesser extent ever since.

Sydney and Leichhardt men made up the entire contingent of the squad of thirteen who travelled to Helsinki 1952 with Sydney contributing nine of those athletes. This pattern continued in the next two decades with an entire Sydney coxed four of Alf Duval, Alan Grover, Mick Allan, John Campbell and Gary Herford selected to compete at Tokyo 1964 under coach Phil Cayzer who a few years later recruited a number of national senior rowers to join Duval, Grover, Joe Fazio and Michael Morgan at Sydney to create the men's eight for the 1968 Summer Olympics. Eight of the sixteen man squad for Munich 1972 plus coach Allan Callaway were from the club followed by five of the twelve man squad for Montreal 1976 plus coach Morgan and team official John Coates.[5]

From Amsterdam 1928 until Rio 2016 the Sydney club had at least one representative in every Australian Olympic rowing squad with the single exception of Barcelona 1992.[5]

Club PresidentsEdit

  • George Thornton was the club's first President from 1870 till his death in 1901.
  • Quarton Levitt Deloitte called the foundation meeting of the club in 1870 and was its first Captain from 1870 till 1901. He replaced George Thornton as the club's second President in 1901 holding that position till 1928.
  • Clarrie Smith became the club's third President in 1928, 59 years after it was first formed. He had been a top oarsman of the 1890s and a subsequent club stalwart.
  • Andrew Sneddon (1935 to 46) a General Manager of the AMP Society and a member since 1902.
  • Harry Kerr (1946 to 1954) who had in his career competed for Mercantile, Leichhardt and SRC.
  • Fred Meares (1954 to 1964).
  • George Parlby OAM (1964 to 1970).
  • Ernie Chapman OAM (1975 to 1978) and (1979–95), an Olympic medallist.
  • Ossie Rosevear (1978–79), a world-class regatta and racing official.
  • Ian Clubb (1995–97), an Olympian.
  • Keith Jameson OAM (1997-)


Keith Heritage, the first AIF volunteer for WWI
Nine SRC men were in 1952 Olympic squad incl Chessel & Tinning seated right, Chapman standing left, Cayzer seat 2nd fm left

Membership of the club was male-only until 1993, when the Club decided that it would allow women to become members.

Notable past members include:

1912 Aust Olympic VIII Hauenstein, Middleton, Ryrie standing 2,3&4 fm right; Fitzhardinge seated 2nd fm left

Olympic representative members include:

World champions include:


Henley Royal RegattaEdit

Year Races won
1912 Grand Challenge Cup
2005 Fawley Challenge Cup
2009 Wyfold Challenge Cup
2011 Fawley Challenge Cup
2015 Britannia Challenge Cup
2019 Wyfold Challenge Cup




  • May, Alan (1970) Centennial History of the Sydney Rowing Club, Sydney Rowing Club (reproduced on Guerin-Foster)

External linksEdit