Olympic rower Brendan Long coaching Tasmania's next generation

Lapping it up: Coach Brendan Long with rowers Blair Tunevitsch, Ciona Wilson and Henry Youl. Pictures: Rob Shaw
Lapping it up: Coach Brendan Long with rowers Blair Tunevitsch, Ciona Wilson and Henry Youl. Pictures: Rob Shaw

Nearly a decade after last gracing the Olympic Games, Brendan Long is hoping to help three of his clubmates reach the same stage.

A change of roles to become the rowing program coordinator at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport has seen Long return to the Tamar River to coach the next generation of the state’s rowers.

Tamar Rowing Club’s Blair Tunevitsch, Henry Youl and Ciona Wilson are seeking selection to Australia’s National Training Centres with aspirations to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. 

Long, who began rowing on the Tamar as a 12-year-old at St Patrick’s College, believes they can make it.

“I expect all three to get an invite to testing camps in October and from there hopefully they will get invited to the National Training Centre,” said Long, who turns 38 next month.

All TIS scholarship holders, the Tamar talents are separated by 11 years in age and have contrasting reasons for getting up before the sun five mornings a week.

A world champion in 2011, Tunevitsch was reserve for the London Olympics but missed out as the lightweight four finished fourth.

Long is confident the 32-year-old Scotch Oakburn product will break into an Australian lightweight pool that could only manage last in the quad B-final at the recent world championships, nearly 24 seconds behind gold medalist France.

“They did not do a great job so he should push into that group,” Long said.

“He’s had a good time out of rowing but has come back very focused and on top of his game. He’s in the best shape and I believe he is the strongest lightweight in Australia at the moment. He was No.1 by 16 seconds in a recent national 5km ergo test. The biggest thing for Blair is finding someone to row with.”

Now 21, Youl is seeking to break into the senior heavyweight sculling squad.

“He is a little bit short for a heavyweight but that does not make it impossible and there have been a few others of his height that have made it and I think he’s capable of doing it,” Long said. “It just might take a couple of years.”

Another former Launceston Church Grammar rower, Wilson, 25, is targeting the women’s pair, four or eight crews.

“She has come a really long way,” Long said. “She has worked really hard so is now very close to the times of the girls at the NTC and I know the national head women’s coach John Keogh really liked her attitude.”

Long is also looking after an emerging talent group of Tamar and North Esk rowers including Jack Barrett, Connor Ryan, Lars Gillingham and Angus McGlashan.