Joe Donnelly, SUBC cox of the early 70?s and cox of the Australian Eights of 1974 and 75 moved to Orange around 20 years ago to take up the position of Kinross-Walaroi School.
Joe has always been single-minded in his endeavours and his work with the team at Kinross over this period has seen it transformed from a struggling to very successful school. The same with rowing ? about six years ago Joe convinced the School Council that introducing rowing to the sport curriculum at KWS would enable the pupils to enjoy those unique aspects of discipline that rowing can offer ? teamwork, dedication, application and enjoyment.
The scho0l thought it would be a simple proposition to row on the Spring Creek dam, Orange?s back up reservoir for their water supply. The dam was located close to the school and offered over 2000 metres with eight lanes ? enough to train a large squad.
Joe had not counted on opposition from a ?green? lobby who were concerned about the fate of two ducks who they claimed lived at Spring Creek. The opposition to the KWS application to row at Spring Creek lasted nearly five years went through many hearings and the Land and Environment Court. The school was successful at all stages and was able to demonstrate that rowing would have minimal environmental impact.
Finally in the 2003-4 season KWS Rowing was launched and KWS pupils began appearing at Sydney Regattas, creating great interest from Sydney based clubs and schools who marveled that a country school based in Orange had been able to launch a successful and sizeable rowing program.
KWS have a shed and fleet of 27 boats located at Spring Creek and in 2004-5 catered to 70 school rowers. The KWS plan is to increase the participation of pupils in rowing to 100 by the 2006-7 season.
May 6th saw over 350 parents, students and teachers of KWS assemble for the Inaugural Dinner of the KSW Rowing Club. Joining the group were a large contingent of rowers from the early 70?s who had been team mates of Joe Donnelly in Sydney Uni, Combined Uni, NSW and Australian crews of the early 70?s. Joe was insistent that this re-union be part of the inaugural dinner wishing to demonstrate to his new rowers the life-long friendships that can spring from our sport.
At the dinner the seven newest boats of the KWS fleet were christened by the KWS chaplain and donors. The entire fleet of KWS has been donated by parents, friends and other supporters of the school.
The KWS Principal Mr. David Williams spoke eloquently about the values that can be learned from the sport of rowing and how the school valued this contribution to the development of its pupils. Steve Newnham, SUBC and Australian rep of 1974 and 1978 spoke about Joe Donnelly and his ?drive? to succeed in his earlier life as a coxen and later in his role as KWS Bursar and now Rowing Coach. Many secrets of Joe?s earlier life were revealed and probably did not surprise his fellow school staff or the parents and students who are used to his unrelenting passion for his work, family and sport.
Fortunately Steve did not reveal the secrets of the 1974 European Tour (following the 74 World Championships) particularly the launch of Ted O?Loughlin?s photographic career in the Loire Valley using Joe?s movie camera.
John Coates spoke about the AOC?s preparation for the Beijing Olympics, especially in relation to rowing and presented the inaugural KWS Rowing Club awards.
A night of great spirit followed as past rowers caught up, mingled with parents and rowers from KWS. The SUBC contingent then repaired to Turner?sVinyard on the KWS bus and many crowded into Boultbee and Shinners suite to relive old memories and clean out several bar fridges.
The Sunday following Joe had organized an SUBC 70?s re-union lunch at Turner?s , where he seems to have enough clout to ensure everybody gets a room even when bookings are lost. Lunch had a few speeches with Chris Shinners introducing Maurie Grace our 70?s wonder coach. Maurie , on his 77th birthday, said how great it was to see us all ( we couldn?t figure out why he never said that when we turned up at the boatshed or regatta in 1973 !). Chris Noel addressed the throng and updated the alumni on the disaster of the boatshed fire and what the plans of SU Sport, SUBC and SUWRC were for re-building. Chris reminded the team of their visit to Jindabyne in 1999 for Maurie?s70th birthday and how the 70?sgroup had then decided that they would like to leave a legacy to the Club and thought the best way to do this was by starting a Rowing Foundation. Chris advised how this had come about and Rowing was now part of and the catalyst for the USSF (University of Sydney Sport Foundation). Chris thanked those who had already donated, advised how much the Foundation had received in pledges ($700,000) how much had been collected in the first year and how much more was needed (about $1.5m). Most of the guests then refused to pay for lunch (it was arranged by Joe anyway) or their room bills in order to save funds for the Foundation.
Many thanks were expressed to Joe for arranging such a fabulous weekend and eventually with the need to get on the road back home most of us dragged ourselves away by 4 pm with a few unable to recover and spending a further night in Orange.
Great to see Phil Winkworth, Chris Shinners, Rob Paver, Bryan Curtin, Aus Cuirtin, Phil Walker, Steve Newnham, John Coates, John Boultbee, Charlie Rowe, Don Roberts, Peter Dickson ( 68 Olympic eight) TedO?Loughlin, Ian Luxford, Howard Croker, Iain MacDonald, Ian Plater, Al Simson,, Mike Crowley, Terry OHanlon, John William Basil St Vincent Welch, Larry Cornell, Chris Noel, Danny Stiel, Hilary Stiel and of course all of our longstanding partners , many of whom supported us through our rowing endeavours.
Thanks Joe for a great weekend and inspiring all of us to put something back into the sport we all love.