Rowing coach?s awesome role
FOR Ron Beattie, rowing has always been king.
The well-credentialed coach has been involved in soccer, has a long-term interest in gemmology, and has held a pilot's licence but for him nothing comes near to the joy of seeing the skill, fitness and improving endurance of rowers in his charge.
His knowledge has been gleaned over many years in the metropolitan areas working with talented coaches and helping rowers from the learner stage to the most efficient and skilful.
He has mentored school and college students of the highest grade in Head of the River, interstate and national competition and club rowers, particularly with the Balmain Rowing Club in Sydney.
He remembers in particular one of his most famous pupils, Dawn Fraser, a swimmer who wanted to row to build up her strength for swimming.
Dawn, the pride of Balmain, is one of one of Australia's and the world's greatest ever competitors, winner of gold medals in the women's 100-metres freestyle at three successive Olympics, 1956 in Melbourne, 1960 in Rome and 1964 in Tokyo.
"Dawn was always thorough, hard working and dedicated and under advice from her swimming coach Harry Gallagher took up rowing in the swimming off-season to help build up her shoulders, arms and legs and her overall strength and I was fortunate enough to be given the coaching task," Ron said.
Ron has worked beside and in conjunction with some of the top rowing coaches in the land.
Three years ago Ron and wife Judith decided to leave city life and they have settled in Grafton, where the good work is continuing, working alongside other coaches of the Northern Rivers area.
He has played soccer, is a team gemmologist lecturer with the Charles Sturt University at Wagga and had qualified as a commercial pilot but all those pursuits have been secondary to his devotion to helping rowers improve and some to reach the top.
Ron Beattie is completely Balmain bred. He was born at nearby Crown Street Women's Hospital in 1940 but after that it was Balmain, spending virtually all his life living and working in the sports-crazy Sydney Harbourside suburb. That is until he and Judith transferred to the Grafton area three years ago and to use a cliche, the city's loss has been Grafton's gain.
Ronald Gordon Beattie is the son of Ronald Keith and Esme (nee Browne) Beattie of Balmain. Ron's parents owned a paint and hardware store and it was in this store that Ron worked for 22 years after the completion of his school studies.
From there it was 23 years in local government as purchasing officer with Leichhardt City Council.
His early schooling was at Birchgrove Public and then Drummoyne High. At both schools he was involved in soccer although it wasn't long before he realised he had more talent at refereeing than playing.
He knew the rules well, handled matches competently and was in demand as a centreman.
At Drummoyne High Ron was into soccer and rowing and continued with both sports after leaving school until he was 25 when he married and for some time concentrated on raising a family.
Ron married Sydney school teacher Judith Setchell at Hornsby in January 1966 and they have three sons, Andrew, David and Stuart.
David and wife Rachel have given Ron and Judith two grandchildren with a daughter, Georgia and son, Liam.
Ron's rowing career began when, aged 10, he became a cox'n at the Balmain Rowing Club on Saturday afternoons and at inter-club regattas.
It wasn't long before he and the other Balmain cox'ns were engaged in Sunday morning club rowing against each other in tub pairs.
The Balmain Rowing Club itself was strongly into rowing fours and tub pairs, both types generally cedar-built.
Ron began coaching rowers and crews when he was 16. That was in 1956 and involved crews of the Sydney Women's Rowing Club who were using the Balmain Club for training.
Ron and George Nielson were working in conjunction, with Nielson coaching the Sydney men's crew with Ron cox'n, and Ron coached the women's crew.
He began helping with coaching at Newington College when his sons were students at the GPS school.
Initially he was coaching the cox'ns and then moved into coaching fours.
"I was assisting the great Michael Morgan in the coaching duties," Ron said.
"Morgan who rowed for Australia in an Olympic Games and coached crews for two others, is regarded as one of Australia's topline tutors and I picked up a lot from him.
"I was given the third fours to work with and was extra proud when in 1993 we won the Head of the River in this division and later in the 1990s coached a junior crew to win an Australian schoolgirls championship.
"I also coached the SCEGGS Darlinghurst girls' crew which collected a number of schoolgirl titles.
"Here in the Clarence, I regard Grafton Rowing Club coach Ken Maughan as being in Morgan's class and a terrific asset to the area."
While training rowers at Newington College Ron kept up his coaching work with the Balmain club and altogether put in 45 years of coaching, enjoying every bit of it.
Ron points out similarities between the Balmain and Grafton rowing clubs.
"There is the competitive attitude for one thing, each club was formed back in 1882 and both have gold and black as their colours."
Backing up their coaching roles, Ron and Ken Maughan are accredited State rowing officials and Ron also accreditation at national level since 1996.
As well as appointments at Head of the Rivers, state and national regattas, one of Ron's long-to-be remembered highlights was appointment as an official in the Control Commission for rowing events at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Since moving to Grafton Ron has helped a number of young rowers to prominence and mentions two pairings in particular that he and Ken Maughan have coached to major success, in sculling and fours but mainly in double sculls, Brenton Ford and Lewis Hemphill, and the girls' pairing of Claire Ward and Hannah Tunstead.
All four have been Grafton High School students and received rowing tuition there as well as through the Grafton Rowing Club of which they are members.
Ron rates Lake Barrington course in Tasmania, where the recent national championships were held, as the most pleasant and picturesque course in Australia and the Sydney International or Olympic Course as the best set-up facility of its kind in Australia.
He is also full of praise for the rowing course at Grafton.
"There is a tremendous stretch of water here for the boats and the course is equal for all crews," he said.
Ron will be going to Sydney shortly to work as an official at the 2006 Sydney Head of the River Regatta, followed the next day by the schoolgirls' competition and then two days of Combined High Schools (CHS) rowing
"Rowing competition around the Northern Rivers is having a break for the time being but what great fare we have coming up," Ron said.
"We first have the Northern Rivers Masters Rowing Championship Regatta at Murwillumbah, followed by the NSW Masters Championships at Grafton."