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World Professional Sculling Championships

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Brief History of Australians in World Professional Sculling—part 2

Money enabled the sport to survive and for scullers to be full time professional sportsmen. No sportsman would have the resources to train full time and also put up the money to secure a challenge. This required backing from syndicates of interested people who in essence were betting syndicates created around each sculler. They would of course take the major part of the purse.

Champions of the World poster

Champions of the World Poster

The sport had similar effects on regional centres. The Grafton Rowing Club history reports:

"Regattas drew huge crowds and were such special events that holidays were sometimes declared to allow spectators to attend. In 1880, a holiday for businesses and schools was declared in Grafton to allow people to travel downstream to a regatta held at Maclean, with Michael Rush taking on all comers in the main event."

John Lang notes in his book The Victorian Oarsman in 1919:

"During the thirty-eight years in which the title has been rowed for pre WW1 (1876-1914) there have been forty-five contests, of which Australia has won thirty-two: (Beach 7; Kemp, Stanbury and Arnst, each 5; (Note - Arnst learned his rowing here, and has always raced as an Australian, not for New Zealand.) G. Towns 4; Trickett 3; Searle 2; McLean 1.

"Hanlan and Gardener (Canada) won 7 between them; England (Barry) 4; New Zealand (Webb) 2.

"Sixteen Australians have competed in other countries for the Championship of the World, or Championship of England, and all won—and some won and lost. A few, very few; had to be content with the honour of having tried, including H. Pearce, H. W. Pearce, J. Paddon, and W: Fogwell."

Pre 1876

Professional sculling and rowing in Australia were well established with the first professional rowing race reported as being in 1805. These were challenge races between Sydney watermen and crews from visiting ships. The Collector of Customs, Captain John Piper, had a good crew and challenged crews from three merchant vessels for the huge stake of 200 guineas.


Scullers Racing

Regattas commenced by 1827 but professional sculling in the form which created World Champions did not commence until about 1850. A strong field of great scullers was created including Dick Green, John McGrath, Michael Rush, Elias Laycock and Edward Trickett.

One of the issues of professional sculling was how to govern disputes and the race itself. For example Jim Paddon claimed the World Title from Alf Felton in 1920 as he challenged him first after Felton won the title. Felton replied that irregardless of the rules he had promised the first challenge to Barry. Actions were stronger than words and the next race was against Barry.

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