History Repeated

Published Thu 27 Jun 2024

This year, the centenary of Queensland winning the King’s Cup for the interstate eight oared championship of Australia in 1924, Dr Michael Toon,  the Athens 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, traveled to Adelaide.   This article was thoughtfully written by Dr Toon in honour of the 1924 Wide Bay Rowing Club's winning Queensland crew and with the promise of 2024's Australian Rowing Team success in Paris:

The Port River, in Port Adelaide was the location of the 1924 Australian Interstate Rowing Championships. Together with the King’s Cup, first won the Henley Peace Regatta in 1919 by an Australian Imperial Forces crew at the conclusion of WWI and donated by King George V to Australia in perpetuity, the President’s Cup for men’s single sculls and the newly-founded ULVA trophy for women’s fours were contested. 

For only the second time in the state’s history the Queensland eight were successful over the crew from NSW in one of the most exciting races ever with a distance of only one canvas (3 feet) separating the crews over 3 miles. 

Victoria were swamped in the race with only 200 yards to row. Also swamped and capsizing on the day was the favourite for the men’s single sculls, the Tasmania Les Nimmo, which opened the way for James Barton of Victoria to win. 

South Australia won the women’s four, a race that was first held on the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River in 1920. 

The Hamilton Reach was the sight of Queensland’s last victory in the King’s Cup in 1939, and only the 3rd in the proud sporting state’s history, a fact that is not lost on many. 

In 2019 Michael made a pilgrimage to the finish line of the 1939 race at the exact time the crew would have crossed the line 80 years previously in an effort to stir the memory of the win for aspiring athletes hoping to reclaim state pride on the water, especially with the Brisbane 2032 Olympics approaching. 

This year he repeated the feat on the finish line of the Port River (pictured) in Adelaide on the centenary of the 1924 win (April 26th) and noted that the conditions were remarkably better than on the day in 1924. 

“Prior to 1960 the King’s Cup used to be raced over 3 miles which was the traditional distance for championship races” he said. “Conditions did not have to be very poor for boats to struggle with taking on water, especially with spectator craft interfering as they did with the popularity of rowing at the start of last century”. 

“The interstate events were raced over the Olympic distance of 2000m in 1956 as a test for the Melbourne Olympics and since 1960 that is the distance they have used”. 

The Queensland crew that won in 1924 was composed entirely of members from the Wide Bay Rowing Club situated on the Mary River in Maryborough

The winning crew in 1924 travelled to South Australia for the King’s Cup and did not compete in the Paris Olympic trials held earlier that year, before the King’s Cup. This year the Olympics are again in Paris with Australia sending a very strong team and defending its record from Tokyo of 2 Gold and 2 bronze medals. 

With the Brisbane Olympics in 2032 on the horizon, we know Queensland athletes can make strides towards the Australian Team and the Olympic podium.