MERCANTILE ROWING CLUB MELBOURNE - Since 1880
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Geoff Barden

Above: 1988 Henley Royal Regatta – winning Ladies Plate crew with Geoff in the three seat

It was a great joy to interview Geoff for his Club profile as his infectious enthusiasm and love of the sport and Club engulfed your correspondent.

To illustrate, I quote from our discussions. “As a starting point, I am a tragic nostalgic, even the smell of the river and its changing seasons can take me back nearly 40 years. I love it’s wonderful boats that I rowed to win whose bows adorn the walls of the club including the Tomanovits to win the Head of the Yarra with BGS in 1983, the Sprigg to win Senior B Championships, various sprint races and Club Sprigg time trials, the Atkins to win Grand Challenge Cup and State Championships”. Geoff has a great sense of Club history and its members, and interestingly of the boats in which he rowed.

In case you have not got my drift, I quote further from his recollections: “My first race was along Herring Island in a tub four. I can recall rowing at the club as a BGS schoolboy in the early 1980s. On a Sunday morning learning to tap the keg downstairs in the cool room so that we could enjoy drinking the Carlton beer that seemed to be the life force of the Club. We would enjoy playing Billiards in the corner of the club which today is occupied by Women’s change room and used the sauna in the area that is now the Schoolgirls change room. Today the walls within the club have moved and it has changed its outward appearance, however Mercantile’s soul remains intact protected by the wonderful people that continue to support our great rowing club. I am so proud that my sons have had the opportunity to race for Mercantile as Junior members, Oliver winning the Sprigg Time trial and Harry collecting medals at the 2018 VIC State Championships”. 

1990 National Championship Coxless Four – Geoff in the bow seat

Despite a couple of disappointments in his rowing career, Geoff’s enthusiasm did not wane and his rowing record is impressive.

1983    Head of the Yarra – BGS first crew three seat – First

1984     Head of the River – BGS Third

1985     Victorian State Championship Men’s Junior Coxed Four – First

1985     Australian National Championship – Men’s Junior Coxed Four – Gold

1985     World Junior Championships, Brandenburg East Germany – Men’s Coxed Four – Fifth

1987     Victorian State Championship Under 23 Men’s Eight- First

1987     Victorian State Championship Under 23 Coxless Pair- First

1987     Australian National Championship U23 Men’s Eight three seat – First

1997     Luzerne International, Men’s Coxed Four bow seat – eliminated in Rep

1997     World University Games, Zagreb, Yugoslavia, Men’s Coxed Four – sixth

1988     Australian National Championship U23 Coxless Pair stroke – Gold 

1988     Australian Development Eight – USA and UK tour

1988     Henley Royal Regatta, Winners Ladies Plate 8+ – three seat

1989     Victorian State Championship Under 23 Men’s Eight – First

1989     Victorian State Championship – Men’s Senior Coxed Four – Bow

1989     Australian University Championships – Men’s Eight, RMIT second *by invitation.

1989     Australian Under 23 Trans-Tasman team, Lake Ruataniwha, NZ

1990     Victorian State Championship Men’s eight Bow – First

1990     Australian Henley Regatta, Grand Challenge Cup – Bow

1990     Australian National Championship – Men’s Coxless Four Bow – Gold

1990     Interstate Men’s Eight Championship emergency (VIC)

1991     Victorian State Championship Men’s Coxed Four – First

1991     Victorian State Championship Men’s eight Bow – First

1991     Australian Henley Regatta, Grand Challenge Cup – Bow

1992     Olympic Trials and post regatta retirement.

1998- 2000      Mercantile Rowing Club Captain

As mentioned, Geoff started rowing at Brighton Grammar School in 1980 and joined Mercantile Rowing Club in 1984. Geoff was a strong rower at school making the first crew in 1983 for most of the season at a young age. In 1984 his BGS crew were the favourites but only finished third after a mishap in the boat at the start.

He immediately joined Mercs and raced in one of Phil Ainsworth’s great junior crews which went onto represent Australia at the World Junior Championships with fellow club members Paul Somerville, Andrew Cohen, Stuart Paton and Peter Scott coxing.

1985 Australian Junior coxed four – Geoff in the bow seat

He then raced with some the greatest rowers in the world at Mercantile in under 23 and senior crews. It was a great time at Mercantile with so many great rowers – it would have been very difficult to get a seat in any boat.

Geoff was an excellent Captain, engaging the members to work for the Club and work well together. The Club thrived and many of those people have continue their strong contribution today. In addition, Geoff’s time as Captain saw the professionalisation of the Club with the introduction of a Head Coach and considerable fund raising efforts to match the costs of a growing club.

Geoff continues to enjoy and celebrates his association with the club and the great friendships that continue. His fellow masters rowers can attest to this. He was Club Captain from 1998 – 2000, and Head Coach of the Firbank Grammar School Rowing Club 1984 – 2000. Geoff is a Landscape Architect at City of Melbourne. He is married to Fiona and has two children who have had the opportunity to race for Mercantile as Junior members.

1990 Henley on Yarra Grand Challenge Cup winners – Geoff in the bow
In that year, several renown crews from Europe and the US raced.

Geoff ended our discussion in the same positive manner as it had begun: I enjoyed my time in the sun, racing and winning with club men and competitors that proved themselves to be the best in the world.

Geoff as Club Captain

Andrew Guerin – Dec 2018

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