UNSW Rowing Club celebrating with their medals after the regatta
The UNSW Rowing Club topped the table with 22 medals at the Grade Championship Regatta. Photo: UNSW Rowing Club

The sun shone brightly upon the Nepean River on the weekend and our UNSW rowers were ready to take on teams from all across NSW and the ACT at the Grade Championship Regatta - considered to be the "grand final" for NSW clubs.

While there were also teams from the University of Technology Sydney, Australian National University and University of Newcastle, there were also a large number of club teams from across NSW and the ACT taking part.

In a stunning display of dominance, UNSW topped the medal table, finishing with 10 gold, eight silver and four bronze and receiving five more medals than their closest competitors in second place.

While the achievements at this regatta are highly notable, perhaps a bigger talking point is the quiet growth of the club over the past few years and the work that has gone into achieving at such a high level.

UNSW Rowing Club president Stephanie Hart is incredibly proud of the tenacity the club has demonstrated.

"(The club) has grown...significantly since the appointment of our Head Coach Natalie Legge who was appointed to the role a couple of years back," she says.

"One of Nat’s particular strengths has been in striking the balance between the effort required to be competitive on the water whilst simultaneously maintaining a fun and inclusive atmosphere around the club for all our student members."

The rowing club has also aligned strongly with the ethos of the UNSW Women in Sport and Active Recreation Strategy, demonstrating a commendable commitment to increasing opportunities for women in their sport.

"Another contributing factor to the club’s success has been the strength of our female leadership and the club embracing the university's initiative to engage women in sport," Hart says.

"The resultant increase in both strength and performance of female rowing in the club has been outstanding. In 2016 the club had one girl wanting to compete, but this past weekend we had nineteen girls out on the water.

"Our girls won a gold and a silver medal in the two most hotly competed female eights events of the regatta against some very strong fields."

The UNSW Rowing Club was acknowledged at the recent UNSW Blues and Sport Awards Dinner, with the club nominated for the 2020 Club of the Year Award and Hart herself receiving a prestigious Doug Crawford Sport Recognition Award, along with former president Chris Byrnes.

As well as their achievements at the higher end of the sport, the club is also highly active in the participation space, running a successful Learn to Row program, administered by Byrnes.

The program provides a fun and social introduction to rowing, which begins on rowing machines and allows participants to improve at their own pace. 

"One of the standout graduates of our Learn to Row program has been second year Mechatronic student Sam Backler," says Hart.

"Sam only learnt to row in her first year at UNSW and yet one year on she has won gold in the Womens D grade single out of a field of 27 competitors.

"This success was in addition to Sam winning, along with other novice compatriots, gold in the four, plus silver in a quad and a double. To achieve these results at a Grade Championship Regatta is a seriously impressive and understandably proud achievement for students who had not rowed prior to enrolling at UNSW."

The UNSW Rowing Club is a proudly inclusive club that welcomes new members and rowers of all levels.