The Manning River Estuary is a much-loved place for recreation, which in turn brings the ecology of the river alive to boating enthusiasts and promotes health and well-being.
Rowing has a long history on the Manning River with the Manning River Rowing and Sailing Club holding events from at least 1889.2 This club was responsible for the annual Croki Boxing Day regattas which were wildly popular until they wound up in 1934 and the club folded in 1937.3
In 1950 the Manning River Aquatic Association (MRAA) was established to develop the river’s recreational possibilities. The Aquatic Carnival, held annually on the Australia Day long weekend for over forty years, was run by this association and is still talked about fondly by locals. It showed the central role the river played for the community.4
The idea to form a rowing club came out of an informal conversation held at the Royal Hotel, the unofficial meeting place of the MRAA.5 Jim Donnelly spearheaded the idea and on 25 October 1957 the Manning River Rowing Club was formed. Ted Burke, Brian Hole, Allan Sawyer and Neville Saville (three of whom rowed surf boats) formed the first novice crew.6 The club’s first regatta was at the 1958 Aquatic Carnival.7 Soon afterwards the club bought their first regulation four boat and christened it the Manning Royal. The crew, in club colours of cerise and blue, recorded their first win at an away regatta in 1959.8
While the club has produced notable rowers including Murray Doust and Gay Allan, rowing has inspired countless others who love the benefits rowing offers. After attending a learner’s rowing group, Bruce Spence is now part of the Masters’ Rowing crew who call themselves ‘Dad’s Army’.
“In a time when the medical system is speaking about the value of exercise for people as they get older, so most of the Dad’s Army rowers have health issues, they deal with them and keep on rowing.”9
The club is now in its 63rd year (2020) and despite recent setbacks with the damage of their clubhouse, it continues to provide “the best rowing opportunities to everyone in the Manning Valley”.10
Managing the river to prevent pollution will preserve its water quality for recreation activities into the future.
Author: Janine Roberts
Supported by MidCoast Council’s Manning River Estuary Coastal Management Program.
1 Manning River Times, 17 May 2019, https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/6128513/manning-rowers-heading-to-australian-masters-regatta/
2 Australian Town and Country Journal, 8 June 1889, 39; Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 22 July 1886, 7.
3 Australian Town and Country Journal, 8 June 1889, 39; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 27 November 1937, 11.
4 Manning River Times, 5 February 2016, https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/3708510/aquatic-festival-beginnings-in-1950/
5 Graham Nix, Fifty years through the work: Manning River Rowing Club, the first 50 years (Taree: Manning River Rowing Club Inc, 2007).
6 Graham Nix, Fifty years through the work: Manning River Rowing Club.
7 Nepean Times, 23 January 1958, 10.
8 Graham Nix, Fifty years through the work: Manning River Rowing Club.
9 Interview with Bruce Spence, Manning Regional Art Gallery, 29 August 2019.
10 Manning River Rowing Club, https://manningriverrowingclub.org.au/