The calm conditions, openness, and gentle currents of the Clarence River enticed more than 80 budding athletes from The Southport School (TSS) on the Gold Coast to return to Grafton between January 15-21 and dip their oars into the famous waterway once again.
Not even the persistent wet weather could dampen their spirits as the boys, aged between 13 and 18, rowed upwards of 50km along a 20km section of the river each day in their respective crews, practising their skills and precision while further developing their strength and speed in preparation for the 2024 Queensland State Championship Regatta, which was held at the Queensland State Rowing Centre between January 19-21, and the upcoming 2024 GPS Head of the River on March 9.
Under the watchful eye of TSS Head Coach of Rowing Cameron Kennedy, the boys diligently negotiated their passage along the Clarence River and unanimously agreed it was “much better” compared to the busy stretches of water along the Nerang River where they frequently train in Queensland.
“To have the opportunity to come back to Grafton and train on the Clarence River which is one of the best rowing locations we have (in Australia) has been fantastic,” Mr Kennedy said.
“The boys loved it.
“Quite a few of them trained in Grafton a year ago, and they were very happy to come back again.”
Mr Kennedy proudly revealed one of the crews who made an early return to Queensland to compete in the 2024 Queensland State Championship Regatta on January 20 won the Under 19s Coxed 8 State Championship title, blitzing their competition in the 2000m event and winning by an impressive 13 seconds in a time of 6 minutes and 5 seconds.
“They rowed very well,” he said.
“I think all that training on the Clarence River definitely helped them.”
Treasurer of the Grafton Rowing Club Don Noble was thrilled to welcome TSS back to the Clarence Valley this year and said accommodating visiting rowers helps to raise the profile of the sport throughout the local region while also benefiting the local economy.
“The Clarence River is a big, wide river, and we’re lucky that we don’t have a lot of commercial traffic using it, and that makes it perfect for rowing,” he said.
“To have close to 100 people, including staff and students who come to Grafton for a week to train on the river, it’s very good for our economy too.”
While Mr Kennedy told the Clarence Valley Independent TSS would love to return to Grafton, Mr Noble confirmed the Grafton Rowing Club will welcome rowers from another Gold Coast school St Hilda’s later this year.
“We’re looking forward to sharing the Clarence River once again,” he said.
“I think everybody knows how it is.”
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 24 January 2024.