Tasmania is among the front-runners to stage future international events according to newly-appointed Rowing Australia executive officer Ian Robson.
The Hobart-born administrator, whose umbilical link to Tasmania was strengthened by five years in charge at Hawthorn, completed a nationwide tour of rowing facilities by being blown away by his home state.
“I’ve been saving the best ’til last,” Robson said as he visited Launceston’s North Esk and Tamar clubs after the Tasmanian Institute of Sport and Lake Barrington.
“That was my first visit to Lake Barrington and it’s stunning – a venue where anybody who has ambitions to represent their country would be thrilled to put a blade in the water. It’s worth remembering that it is the only venue in Australia to host a world championship and has also staged multiple national events.
“Significant consideration is being given to future events not only nationally but internationally and Tasmania is very much in that conversation.”
Robson, who was executive officer at Hawthorn from 2004-09 and has held the same position at Essendon, Melbourne Victory, the Auckland Warriors and SportsScotland, began his job with RA in January.
Enjoying a guided tour from Rowing Tasmania executive officer Rob Prescott and president Jim Gibson, the former student at Hobart’s Friends School, who also spent six months at Scotch College in Launceston, was well aware of the state’s proud rowing heritage.
He said signs indicating North Esk and Tamar’s respective founding in 1899 and 1876 spoke volumes for the sport’s history along with a shell, proudly displayed at Lake Barrington, of the last Tasmanian boat to win a Kings Cup in 1926.
“It does feel like coming home because I am a Tassie boy. Hawthorn brought me to Launceston and now so has Rowing Australia and I’m thrilled to be back.
“On a pound for pound per capita basis Tasmania is really impressive. When I was at the TIS I looked at the wall of Olympians and was impressed by the incredible ability to produce world class athletes.
“I have always felt that talent must know no postcode or socio-economic barrier and Tasmanian success on the world stage is testament to that.
“There is a compelling history to rowing in Tasmania and indeed in Australia and, in many respects, rowing is older than sports like Aussie rules in our sporting landscape.”
In terms of national hosting rights, Robson said Hobart would be staging Rowing Australia’s annual meeting at the end of May while only Western Australia, South Australia and NSW could also lay claim to having an existing international-standard venue.
The Australian Masters Championships are being held at Lake Barrington in May and Robson said national events from elite to juniors, schools and masters bring significant tourism benefits.
The 56-year-old father-of-two, who has a son rowing with Scotch College in Melbourne, described his switch from assorted football codes to rowing as “a sliding door moment of serendipity”.
“I always craved to be involved in an OIympic sport, this opportunity came along and I’m thrilled to be involved with people who wake up every morning with a dream to be the best in the world. As an administrator I’m delighted to try and help make those dreams come true.
“In all my previous roles I’ve never seen a more committed group of athletes than those at our national training centres.”
Robson completed an economics degree at Monash University in Melbourne and qualified as a chartered accountant before spending 25 years in sports leadership roles.
He said he was excited by Australia’s potential at this year’s world championships in Bulgaria followed by the countdown to the 2020 Olympics beginning with the 2019 world titles in Linz, Austria.
Prescott said Tasmanian rowing was in a healthy position with a planned precinct on the north bank of the North Esk River in Launceston complementing Southern developments at New Town Bay, New Norfolk and Huon.
In addition, four Tasmanians – Ciona Wilson, Sarah Hawe, Georgia Nesbitt and Eve Mure – are attending national training centres.