JR (John) Ranch | Joe Donnelly
History of Rowing in Orange and District
Rowing regattas were held when Gosling Creek Reservoir was first opened in 1890.
In Lucknow, a boating lake was built by the instigation of Henry Newman, constructed in their spare time by the men who worked in the mines. The lake was built to give the miners and their families a means of recreation and took to the water in a variety of craft. Women also became proficient at boating.
An enclosure extending the full width of the winning end of the lake was reserved for ladies with shelter from the suns rays provided. On the opposite side of the bank sat the starters, judges and timekeepers box. Bunting flying in the breeze from the poppet heads and posts around the lake suggested a gala festival. The normal attendants, a shooting gallery, swinging boats, merry-go round, doodle-em-buck, refreshment room and a stand for the band accompanied such sporting gatherings.
Rowing in the district has remained popular. In 2004, Orange City Council granted Kinross Wolaroi School permission to undertake rowing training on Spring Creek Reservoir. The school has already been extremely successful, winning numerous medals in the 2005/2006 season and receiving wide acclaim for their success in such a short period of time.
The club now has a fleet of 29 boats, comprising 2 eights, 3 fours, 7 quads, 4 pairs, 2 double sculls and 11 single sculls. The program has taken off within the school and in 2006 there are now 88 rowers and coxens in the program.
The school is anxious to encourage other schools to participate and for the general public to become involved in the sport. Only in it's early days, the Rowing club looks set for a big future in Orange and district.
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JR (John) Ranch
John Raymond Ranch was born in Bondi on 26 November 1940 and moved to Orange when he was four years of age. John's father Ray was the Licensee of the Tourist Hotel, recently re-named Hotel Orange.
John commenced his school days at Santa Maria Convent in Byng Street and then moved on to high school at De La Salle when it was situated in Summer Street where the Summer Centre now stands.
John had an interest in rowing during his school days in Orange from 1945 to 1958, but it wasn't till he went to Sydney University in 1959 that his opportunity to participate in the sport was available. He also joined the Bondi Surf Club where he rowed surfboats, as well as rowing still water with the University. John had a big advantage in that he was able to row at either Bow or on the Stroke side.
John had the distinction of rowing for Australia before he had been selected for NSW. In 1965, John was chosen to represent Australia against New Zealand in a series where he rowed in the "engine room" in the Six seat.
John was coached by the renowned rowing coach Allan Calloway who miraculously survived a Kamikaze raid in the Coral Sea. Under the guidance of Calloway, John and the Australian VIII took out the Silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and this was not equalled until the Sydney 2000 Olympics with the Australian VIII also taking out the Silver medal.
Calloway was again at the helm of coaching when John represented Australia at the World Championships in Bled, Yugoslavia in 1966. In all, John won four representative blazers for NSW and four Australian blazers. In 1985, John represented Australia at the World Masters Games in Toronto, Canada.
On retirement, he coached at Sydney University and the Sydney Rowing Club.
In 1994, John presented his Silver medal to James Sheahan Catholic High School as a means of thanking them for the wonderful education in Orange. The medal was returned to John by the school in 2000, which thought it more appropriate that his family have possession of such a valuable award. John then presented the school with his Olympic Relay torch where it remains permanently in Orange.
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Joe Donnelly was introduced to rowing at St Ignatius College Riverview in 1965, where he was the smallest student in the school at 28 kilos. At that time there was no weight limit for coxens in the Head of the River and Joe’s lack of stature became a distinct advantage for the Riverview crews. Having left Riverview in 1969 after coxing 5 GPS crews, he joined the Sydney University Boat Club and coxed a combined Sydney University/NSW University VIII to 2nd place in the 1970 State Championships coming 2nd by one foot. The rowers from that crew all retired or left the club. At the end of the 1970 season Joe, who did not attend Sydney University, stayed with the club and a new intake of boys who had just left school. A crew of eager boys looked for a coach in John Ranch, who was unable to give the necessary commitment to the students and in turn organised Maurice Grace to coach the Sydney University Junior IV at the end of 1971. This crew went on to win the State Championships and then along with a second crew of young eager students went on to win the National Championship in the Junior VIII in 1972. The coxen, coach and six of the Sydney University VIII were then selected to represent NSW in New Zealand as the NSW U21 Colts VIII.
Joe was honoured to be named the Captain of the team, which was a first for a coxen at the time. The crew competed in New Zealand against the strongest competition and returned to NSW undefeated. In 1973, Joe was selected to cox the Kings Cup VIII for NSW, as a result of the Sydney University VIII winning every race throughout the season, with the exception of the State Championship, which was the main race of the season.
As a result of failure in the 1973 Kings Cup, the University boys trained solidly through the winter months to rectify the loss of the 1973 season. In 1974, the Sydney University VIII went on to win the State Championships that had not been achieved by the club for 20 years. The bulk of the University VIII was then selected into the NSW Kings Cup crew to compete at Ballarat in Victoria. This crew, as underdogs, went on to win the event by 3/4 of a length from South Australia and the coach, coxen and five of the rowers went on to represent Australia at the World Championships in Lucerne in 1974.
Having learnt from the experiences of the World Championships, where the crew finished 7th, the University boys took the club to the top of Australian Rowing in 1975. The team of University students won the Champion Coxed Pair, Champion Cox IV and the Champion VIII at the NSW Championships in 1975. Once again, the bulk of the crew, including the coach, coxen and five rowers went on to represent Australia at the World Championships in Nottingham England, where the crew finished 5th in the final.
In 1976, the University team had a difficult year with injury and at the end of that season Joe retired from rowing at the age of 25. He then became serious about a paying career, working for Unilever Australia, Rexona Pty Ltd and Berger Paints in Sydney.
In 1982 he moved to Orange as Bursar of Kinross Wolaroi School. From 1982 to 1991, he had no further involvement in rowing, but concentrated on his farming interest outside Orange. In 1991, his sons entered secondary school at Kinross Wolaroi and showed an interest in sculling. Joe purchased two boats and coached his sons on Lake Canobolas whilst they were at school. Both were successful as individual scullers, competing in the finals at State and National level. His youngest son Damien, who was also small like he, coxed in three Head of the Rivers whilst he attended Riverview.
Once his sons had left school, Joe no longer had anyone to coach and he raised the idea of introducing rowing to Orange with the School Council of Kinross Wolaroi. He highlighted the fact that no school in the Central West of NSW offered rowing as a sport and the only country schools that offer rowing at all in a small way were TAS and NEGS in Armidale. He also highlighted the fact that there were only two co-educational schools in NSW offering rowing - being Newcastle Grammar and SCEGGS Redlands that offered rowing on a limited basis. It was seen that offering rowing at Kinross Wolaroi and Orange would enable the school to advertise a sport that was not available to the schools competitors and over time, would attract students from the Sydney schools, as well as those students from the country that were bypassing Kinross Wolaroi to row.
The other attraction to introducing rowing to Orange, was to enable boys and girls to compete at the highest level, at both the NSW and Australian championships. At the time, competition at this level in any other sport was not available to Orange teams, nor school teams such as Kinross Wolaroi. Joe put the challenge to the School Council that if the Kinross Wolaroi crews were good enough, they would bring recognition and advertising to the school and to Orange, as there were no other sports played in Orange that enabled you to compete against the top schools in Australia.
The School Council supported the arguments put forward by Joe and introduced rowing to Kinross Wolaroi in 2004. One might have thought that this was the last hurdle to be jumped in relation to the introduction of rowing to Orange, but the battle over Spring Creek was still raging, having commenced the process to use Spring Creek in April 2000.
As everyone in Orange would be aware, the battle over Spring Creek took place over 4 years ending in the Land and Environment Court with a ruling in favour of the City Council and the school in May, 2003. The battle for Spring Creek was paramount in the plans to introduce rowing to Orange, as it is the only viable venue to allow training to take place and to get competitors to a standard which will enable victory at National and International levels.
The plan for rowing in Orange was put to the City Council not just as a program for Kinross Wolaroi, but as a program for Orange as a city. Joe put the vision to the City Council of the Oarsome Foursome coming from Orange. Without rowing on Spring Creek, this opportunity would never be possible. He said that there is no reason that a crew such as the Oarsome Foursome could not originate from this city and in particular, as the students that leave Kinross Wolaroi will continue to row and have the opportunity to do so on the Orange waterway.
The Kinross Wolaroi Rowing program started with 30 students in Year 8, with those students now in their final season at the school in 2006/2007. The school has already been extremely successful, winning three State Championships, winning numerous medals at club and ISA Regatta’s, competing at the Head of the River for girls in 2006 and the club being awarded the Kevin Webb OAM Achiever of the Year from the NSW Rowing Association for the 2005/2006 season.
At the 2007 National Championships, the goal that was set in 2004 to reach the A Final of the Nationals was achieved by the 13 founding students of the club. The Boys Coxed IV finished 5th in the A Final, the Schoolboys U17 VIII finished 5th, with a crew of Year 9 students and the Girls VIII finished 6th in the A Final of the Women’s U19 VIII, as well as finishing 2nd in the B Final of the Schoolgirls VIII - coming from 5th position to finish 2nd. The girls VIII rowed the 5th fastest time of the 24 VIII’s that had entered the competition.
The club has now grown to 82 rowers and coxens since its inception and it is anticipated that it will expand to 100 rowers before next season. The club now comprises 30 boats of which two are VIII’s and most have been donated by generous benefactors and parents of the students who have been caught up in the rowing fever of Orange. The culmination of the 4 year plan for the initial intake of students was to compete in the finals of the Nationals in 2007. This has now happened and the goal that was set has now been achieved.
Since 2007, the Kinross Wolaroi Club has continued to grow and excel with numerous State and National Medals being achieved by the Club. In December 2009, the Club won 8 Gold Medals, 3 Silver Medals and 3 Bronze Medals at the NSW Sprint Championships, following on from 2 Silver Medals and 2 Bronze Medals at the 2009 National Championships in Tasmania. In 2010, the Club reached the pinnacle of success, winning three State Championships in the Long Course Events and numerous silver and bronze medals followed by 1 Gold, 2 Silver and a Bronze Medal at the 2010 National Championships in Victoria.
The Club went on to win the Schoolboys Head of the River Trophy for the second time and the Boys Quad Scull won the Sporting Team of the Year for Orange. Joe Donnelly was then named the NSW Schoolboy Coach of the Year for the 2009/2010 season. At the end of the season, Joe Donnelly stood down as Coach of Kinross Wolaroi to further develop his ambitions with the Vietnamese Rowing Team.
Joe has been developing an association with the Vietnamese Womens Rowing Team throughout 2009/2010. This relationship culminated at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in China, where the Womens Lightweight Quad Scull and the Womens Heavyweight Double Scull both achieved the first medals for Vietnam in the Asian Games, winning silver medals behind the Olympic champions from China in the Quad Scull and the heavyweight crew from China in the double scull.
In 2011, a team of 5 women and 1 man came to Australia for a 6 week training camp and competition in Sydney at the Sydney Olympic Course. The team were extremely successful, winning a number of gold and silver medals against the NSW opposition. In November 2011, Joe coached the Vietnamese men and women’s team of 20 athletes for the South East Asian Games in Indonesia. The team had its most successful result, topping the medal tally for rowing at the games with 3 Gold Medals, 4 Silver Medals and 2 Bronze Medals.
In 2012, a group of 8 athletes are again training at Kinross Wolaroi in Orange and will compete at the NSW State Championships in February. The mens and womens lightweight double sculls and the mens and womens heavyweight single scullers will then compete at the Asian Qualifying Regatta in Korea on the 26th and 27th April. The aim is to finish in the top 3 in Asia in the double sculls and the top 6 in the single sculls, which will grant them automatic qualification to the Olympic Games in London. This achievement would be a first for Vietnam in rowing, as they have never qualified for rowing at the Olympic Games in the past.
Joe plans to continue to develop the relationship with the Vietnamese Rowing Team, with the aim to increase the profile of the sport in Vietnam and give the Vietnamese rowers the opportunity to achieve to their potential at International level.
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