By Rupert Guinness at the Sydney International Regatta Centre

The Australian Men’s Eight provided a sweet taste of their prospects at the Olympics with its impressive winning time in their final at the Australian Rowing Championship on Saturday.


Racing into a slight headwind at the Sydney International Regatta Centre as Mercantile-Composite, the crew won the Open Men’s Coxed Eight final in 5 minutes 27.57 seconds.


In second place at 1.20s was the fast-finishing Adelaide-Composite crew that was made up of the rest of the Australia Rowing Team men’s sweep squad – the Coxless Four, Coxless Pair and two reserves. In third place at 17.79s was the Melbourne University-Composite crew.


The Australian Eight’s time was excellent considering the conditions. The first two Eights also went into Saturday’s race fatigued, off the back of a brutal menu of selection trials, training and racing at the Australian Rowing Champions this week in the smaller boats.


The winning time by the Australian Eight in their first official race since being selected compares well this early into their preparation for the Olympics in four month’s against their best times of last year. Last year, the Eight clocked 5:23.92 to win Gold at World Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland, and 5:24.20 for Bronze at the World Championships in Belgrade.


The crew that won on Saturday was cox Kendall Brodie (SRC), Angus Widdicombe (Merc), Angus Dawson (Adel), Jack O’Brien (SUBC), Jack Hargreaves (SUBC), Alex Purnell (SUBC), Spencer Turrin (SRC), Josh Hicks (SRC) and Ben Canham (MUBC).


“I am really pleased with the time, particularly with the fatigue,” said Brodie. “There’s lots of room to improve. But in March, for an Australian Men’s Eight to be rowing 5:27 is exciting.


“The guys are probably pretty tired at this point in the nationals. We’ve had some really good training on the Nepean River … long ‘Ks’.


“It’s also never easy racing Nationals just off the back of national selection, in your selected boat where everyone’s just waiting to throw their punch and see if they can land it.


“We knew what we needed to do and although we didn’t quite execute it in some parts, it was really positive on the whole.”


Open Women’s Coxed Eight

Rowing Australia selectors are yet to name the Australian Women’s Eight. However, the Open Women’s Coxed Eight final on Saturday still saw an exciting race unfold between the first two crews that were made up from members of the Australian Women’s squad.


Winners were the Mercantile-Composite crew of cox Hayley Verbunt (Merc), Paige Barr (Merc), Jessica Morrison (Merc), Lucy Stephan (MUBC), Jacqueline Wick (SRRC), Katrina Werry (Merc), Georgie Rowe (UTS), Bronwyn Cox (UWABC) and Eliza Gaffney (MUBC).


The final was also the first official race in the Eight for the Australian women since they were selected in the squad that is training under Women’s Head Coach John Keogh.


“We haven’t definitely haven’t perfected it yet,” said Rowe who rowed in the Australian Eight that won a Bronze at last year’s World Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.


“There’s still a lot to figure out, but it’s nice to have a hit out. It is good race to race your mates, and there is a bit of pride on the line too.


“It was a good race. We had a good clean first 500m. It felt pretty fast. It was just that last ‘K’ we kind of need to figure out our ‘wind’ up] and keeping it really simple.”


While Rowing Australia selectors have named Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison as the Australian Coxless Pair, they are yet to finalise the Eight and Coxless Four combinations.


But Rowe said the squad was on the right trajectory for success at the Olympics in Paris.

“We’re all getting along really well, the boat’s moving, and John is in charge,” said Rowe. “There is really good cohesion among the girls. That’s going to be key going into Paris.”


Among other Finals on Saturday:


Open Women’s Quad Scull

Dual World Championship Single Scull Bronze medallist Tara Rigney won a second Gold in the Australian Rowing Championships on Saturday, in the Open Women’s Quad Scull final.


Rigney (SUBC), who has already won Gold in the Open Women’s Single Scull, crewed with Kathryn Rowan (SUBC), and the Australian Women’s Double Scull team of Amanda Bateman (MUBC), Hariet Hudson (SRC) who earlier this week also won Gold in the Double Scull.


The quartet, all members of the Australian Rowing Team, won in 6:19.05, just bettering the 2000 Olympic Games gold medal winning time at the same venue by Germany of 6:19.6.


Second on Saturday at 0.71s was Caitlin Cronin (UQBC), Laura Gourley (UTS), Rowena Meredith (SUBC) and Ria Thompson (UQBC), all ART members. Third at 34.84s was Maggie Foley (Corio), Anna Morrison (Merc), Sophie Reinehr [Merc) and Catherine Khan (ANU).


Open Men’s Quad Scull

The crew of Alex Rossi (WARC), Campbell Watts (ANU), Caleb Antill (SUBC) and Jack Cleary (WARC) came out trumps to convincingly win the Open Men’s Quad Scull final in 5:55.98.


Second at 6.41s was Harry Glackin (CLRC), Nick Blackman (ADLUN), Cormac Hayes (Canb) and Hamish Harding (ANU). Third was Griffith University-Surfer’s Paradise at 13.14s.


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