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Awards for Sydney Uni at Rowing New South Wales Presentation Night

Our club featured prominently at the Annual Awards night for Rowing New South Wales on Friday night (17th May).

Richard Ledger, who started rowing in March 2018 was awarded “Novice of The Year”. after a strong first year in rowing during which he toured to Korea, made the single scull final at the University Championships and competed strongly at the State and National Championships in 2019.

Our recent previous winner of this award was David Bartholot ( 2016). David is currently selected in the senior men’s squad for the 2019 World Cups of Rowing.

Our President Sarah Cook and Head Women’s Coach, Alfie Young were on hand to accept for SUBC as winners of the 2019-2019 Elite and U23 Shields for the most points in both the men’s and women’s categories. Congratulations to our coaches and our squads for this achievement.

Nick Purnell was awarded New South Wales “ Oarsman of The Year” for his great form in 2018-19. Nick won a silver medal in the men’s eight at the World Championships and formed part of the leadership group in the NSW King’s Cup eight. The crew won the event on the Centenary Year of the King’s Cup making it thre in a row in this event for New South Wales and 10 wins since 2008 – our state’s best long term performance in this event. Congratulations Nick. One of SUBC’s greats.

Nick could not be on hand to accept the award in person due to training commitments at The National Training Centre in Canberra.

He thoughtfully sent this speech for our President Sarah Cook to accept of the occasion of this award:

Nick Purnell – Rowing NSW Oarsman of the Year 2019

“I better start off by apologising for my absence this evening. A free meal, open bar and great company would have been a brilliant way to spend my Friday night, but the chances of Ian Wright giving me a Saturday off are akin to seeing a pig fly. You don’t even bother asking!! Nonetheless I was unsure whether writing a few words down was the done thing in this situation, but I decided that I’ve always been a bit of a speeches kind of guy and given that those who know me are well aware of my extroverted nature, that if I didn’t have something to say there must be something wrong! So here are more than a few words – I apologise. Then again NSW Rowing gave me the award so are somewhat at fault for giving me a forum. At least you have the wonderful Sarah delivering this speech rather than being exposed to my deep and droning voice! Moving on…

I am truly humbled to be awarded NSW Oarsman of the Year. Especially given the age and stage that I find myself in my career. As a way of context, I was awarded this same honour after my first Senior A season way back in 2010. Wide eyed and bushy tailed, I thought that international medals and noteworthy performances would roll on year on year… Oh how that most certainly hasn’t been the case. The reasons for this are innumerable, some of which I had control over and others that I didn’t. Nonetheless that’s the way the chips have fallen.

After taking 18 months out of the sport in the wake of the disappointment of missing qualification of the Men’s 8 for Rio, I returned with modest expectations for season 2018. To say that what transpired was well beyond what I had envisaged for my comeback year would be an understatement of the first order. Beyond the achievement, it was an affirmation on a personal level that I still had what it took to be a competitive international rower.

I guess the natural line of questioning comes to – would I have done anything differently? Hindsight is 20/20, so of course there are definitely alternative avenues I would have pursued to avoid having a 7-year gap between World Championship medals. However, by the same token, what I learnt about myself and life in general through the disappointments of those doldrum years are some of the most invaluable I could ever hope for. (Let me also be clear it wasn’t all doom and gloom! There were victories along the way, just not many that are well recognised). Those years scrapping it out in the middle of the pack helped clarify what is important to me, not just in a rowing sense, and made clear the reasons why I should undertake rowing in the first place.

Through the thick and thin there are a few people that I must thank for supporting me through my career, which is scarily hurtling towards its sunset! Nothing can prepare you for how quickly the years slip away!

First and foremost, my Mum & Dad. They have been the bedrock that afforded me the opportunity to row in the first place (GO SHORE) and supported my participation in the sport ever since. A couple of lines in a speech conveys little to the amount I’ve relied on them in every perceivable aspect of my life. I hope you’ve both enjoyed the ride as much as I have and may the remaining years continue in such a way. Thank you so much!

Secondly to the great and powerful Sydney University Boat Club and specifically Chris Noel. I think the new shed and every single eight that’s bought should be named after you. You are the heart and soul of the club and someone that has encouraged me since my first days there in 2008. The sacrifices you have made over your lifetime to bring the club to where it is and where it’s going in the future I hope are never underestimated or forgotten. Thank you for always looking out for me and having my best interests at heart.

Another individual I need to thank is Tim McLaren. I’ll never forget a piece that 7 News did on our eight in 2015 where upon wrapping up his interview the journalist was quoted as saying, “this guy is more Wayne Bennett than Wayne Bennett!” Tim’s knowledge, guidance and approachability are attributes I’ve greatly appreciated being surrounded by. He has taught me a lot about rowing and life outside the boat and I had a brilliant time during the years rowing under him. I always look forward to engaging, as he likes to put it, in a “gabfest” and I can always count on him for a few sage words. Thanks Tim.

Of course, the results last year would not be possible without the creation of the NTC and the coaches that direct us on a daily basis. The drive for success and commitment to a strenuous training program is the reason that myself and so many others tasted success last year, so a big thanks to Ian Wright, Andrew Randell and Mark Prater. Without their guidance there is no way that the Australian Men’s Team would have secured the results we did last year. I’d also like to make special mention to Mrs Gina Reinhardt; whose generous support is an integral part of the success being achieved by Australian crews. Without her financial support there would not be a Men’s and Women’s NTC in operation.

Finally, I want to acknowledge all the old NSW heads that gave me such a kickstart at the beginning of my career, providing me with lifelong friendships and now support me to the hilt given that I’m the final one amongst them rowing. These friendships were all formed rowing in the NSW King’s Cup. I was welcomed in with open arms as a 19-year-old by these elder statesmen and have enjoyed some of the best experiences and memories of my life being involved with this special race. So a thanks must be extended to:

· Matt Ryan , Sam Loch, James Chapman, Toby Lister, Fergus Pragnell, Dan Noonan

Of that list of NSW Legends I want to make particular mention of Matt Ryan. Since my first Senior A rowing camp in January 2010 Matt has been an invaluable supporter of me and a best mate. I was taken under his wing during his rowing career and in the years since his retirement, especially whilst I was living in Melbourne, he and his family have looked after me and helped me along my journey through this sport as well as my pursuit of a career and life outside rowing. So, thanks to Matt and the Ryan clan.

I won’t bore you any longer, you’ve survived the speech. Congratulations! To finish, thanks again for this award, I hope you all have a wonderful night, and I look forward to seeing you in person in the near future.

Go The Waratah!




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