To clarify my selection for the 1958 Games
After I had been elected club captain in mid 1957, Alan Mackenzie (Stewart’s father) came down to the club and informed me the Stewart would not be coming back to Australia but was going to reside in England where he could more easily, and more often, compete against the Russian, Vyacheslav Ivanov, who had beaten Stewart to win the gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.
This put me (as club captain) in a difficult position as I had counted on Stewart winning the State championship Singles over three miles and two thousand metres, he and I defending the State Doubles that we had won in March 1957, and he winning the senior singles at all of the regattas in the coming season.
Peter Evatt was our only other senior sculler but he was rowing in the eight that was training for the Commonwealth Games test race and no member of that crew, by order of the coach, Eric Longley, was available to row in anything but the eight.
I was only a fairish junior sculler at the time without my own boat so I borrowed one from Maurie Earls and entered all the senior events as well as junior events (which I was winning quite comfortably).
In early December I won the Senior Singles at Liverpool regatta, the only problem with that was that I couldn’t compete in junior events any more.
I won the State Champion Singles and Fours on the same day in December and was surprised to find it reported in the press next morning that this was the first time in N.S.W.R.A. history that this double had been won by anyone.
Lack of competent senior oarsmen [club races were over a mile and experienced oarsmen were needed for a Three Miler] required that I row in the Three Mile State Champion Eights in February 1958 and I won the Three Mile Singles Championship on the same day. Again the press reported that this was the first time this had been done by anyone.
The winner of the Three Mile Singles Championship was an automatic selection to represent N.S.W. at the Australian Singles Championship but I still managed to row in anything that would get premiership points for the club.
Peter Evatt had damaged his back in the Games eight and was dropped, but, by the time the State Doubles Championship came around he had recovered sufficiently for us to win.
Tom Treseder, (Haberfield), and I had competed in the Games test races in January, for pairs and fours and finished third in both events. N.B. I think this is the demanding selection process in both coxless fours and the pairs that is referred to below. There was no selection process, I was selected in a matter of seconds.
After I won the Australian Singles on May 3rd., my season was finished, at least, I thought so. On Monday 5th May in the early evening the phone rang in our corner shop, where I was helping my dad and big brother, Frank, weigh stock for the next day. The conversation went like this :– “Steve?” “Yes.” Harry Alderson,” (Harry was the chairman of the NSWRA and all other rowing bodies right up to the Australian Olympic Federation), “Yes Harry,” “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”
“Better give me the bad news first, it can only get better from there.” “O.K. The bad news is that Jimmy Chapman can’t go to the Games.” “That’s too bad Harry.” “The good news is that Kevyn Webb wants you to row in the pair with him to replace Jim, are you available?” …………….. Long Pause. “Steve?” “Yes Harry.” “Are you available?” ………….. Longer Pause. “Steve?” “Yes Harry” “Are you available?” “Strewth, I don’t know Harry.”
“I’m at a meeting of the Games Association and I need to know tonight.” “Can you give me a number and I’ll call you back?”I floated across the floor of the shop to the short stairs leading up to the house, where my mother, sister, and fiancee were, and called out if they could come down to the shop. When they did I told them that Harry Alderson had called (I didn’t have to explain, they all knew who he was). “Would we be able to raise enough money to get me to the Games?” Frank roared out, “YES! YES! I’ll raise the money to get you to the Games.” Frank was a bus driver at Burwood and most of the money to get me away was raised there.
I rang Harry back and told him I was available. “Right, you’re on the team, Jim Eve will send you official notification in the morning, congratulations.”
No more work was done in the shop that night but the shop soon filled up with customers as the word got around and Frank had over two hundred pounds in the kitty before we closed the shop just before midnight.
Weeks later he won the Australian Championship Sculls (the President’s Cup), and competed for Australia at the 1958 Commonwealth Games at Cardiff in the Coxless Pairs, after a demanding selection process in both coxless fours and the pairs.
NB (NSW Lightweight Rowing officially commenced in 1922 with the other States following some time later. It wasn’t until 1948 that a special challenge race between Victoria and NSW (At Ballarat) resulted in a complete Leichhardt crew win.
In 1949 (1957), not 1949, the then Australian Amateur Rowing Council included a Lightweight four oared event at the Kings Cup Regatta; on that occasion on the Nepean River in 1958, and hence the LW4 thereafter was referred to as the “Penrith Cup” – Penrith Council having been approached to donate the perpetual trophy – having an individual weight limit of 10 stone 10 pounds (now 72.5kg but not exceeding a 70kg average crew).