Michael Morgan: My Coaching Journey – Part II

The decision to take up coaching and my apprenticeship

New South Wales Colts’s eight for the New Zealand tour in 1973.

3 February 2022

By Michael Morgan

Here Michael Morgan continues his story about his coaching journey, which he started as an Olympian silver medallist in the eights at the Mexico Games in 1968. Part I of his story is here.

The 1972 Munich Olympic experience was very disappointing in many ways. After the usual selection fiasco, the crew settled down to training on similar lines to what we had done on the way to Mexico. After about four weeks of training, we were advised of the very sad news that our 6 man, Ian McGuirter, had been diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.

As an athlete, I was at my peak, The crew was training very hard, but we had lost a key member of our crew. We were let down by management and the Australian Olympic Committee and never performed to our potential. My feeling at the end was that the more miles we rowed we just got better at our faults. I could not see my dream of an Olympic Gold medal being reached as an oarsman.

I had always had strong opinions of the way we should row and train and thus felt it was time to put my money where my mouth was as they say.

When John Turnbull, the Rowing Master at Newington, in 1973, asked me if I would like to coach the Newington eight, I jumped at the opportunity.

John had rowed in the 4 seat of the Newington eight that I was bow of when we won the 1963 Head of the River. I was to replace Ernie Chapman, who had coached me at school in my second year in the eight. John said that Ernie was working the boys too hard, and they were not enjoying the sport and hence giving rowing away. I probably came in and worked the boys even harder, but they seemed to hang around.

Fortunately, I was working in the family furniture business for my father. Dad had been a rowing coach at both Newington and St Ignatius for many years. He was very supportive which allowed me to leave the factory at 3pm on rowing days just as he had done in the past. He probably thought it would be a good experience for me and I would learn lessons that I could apply in the business.

Little did I realise that I was going to coach a School First Eight for 31 years and make coaching my career.

My first season coaching – 1973/74
The invitation to coach Newington also coincided with my still unfulfilled dream of success at the Olympic Games. If I couldn’t do it pulling an oar why not have a go as a coach. As usual my base to achieve Olympic selection was to be Sydney Rowing Club.

Although I was conscious that my appointment at Newington was to replace my mentor Ernie Chapman, who was reported to have worked the boys too hard, I was firm in the belief that, if for instance I wanted to win a marathon, the best chance would be if I ran more miles than all the other competitors in training then I would probably beat most of them. With this attitude and all my un-trialled theories how the boys should row, we covered a lot of miles. When the Head of the River approached, I realised that the crew didn’t look the way I wanted it to look. They finished 3rd and my steep learning curve as a coach was gaining momentum.

New Zealand Colts Tour
With the Head of the River behind, my sight was set on gaining selection as coach for a New Zealand tour by New South Wales to race in a Colts series against the NZ Colts. The NSW selectors came up with the idea that the four coaches, including me, who had been nominated should be given a chance to prove themselves. The oarsmen who were trying for selection were divided into four even fours and given a coach. After a few weeks, they would race off and the coach of the winning crew would be selected as the coach. Fortunately, my crew was successful, and a crew was formed for the tour with me as the coach.

The competition was between crews from Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and New Zealand. The results were mixed with all crews having their moments, but a nucleus was forming for future crews with Steve Handley, Tony Brown, Ian Clubb and Steve Yorke representing Sydney RC.

It should be noted that I married Meg on the 18 October and she came along on the tour – it was the closest we came to having a honeymoon.

1974/75 Club season
At the completion of the Colt’s tour, a squad of young oarsmen was formed at Sydney RC with success coming in NSW Championship Youth and 2nd Grade Eights and the Youth pair. The Youth Eight also won the maiden Eight at the Henley-On-Yarra Regatta, Melbourne.

At the National Regatta, a junior four was successful, and in the senior coxed four event a crew with new recruits Ted Hale, Islay Lee (both former National Single Scull Champions), Tony Brown and Richard Curtin were runners up to four members of the successful NSW Kings Cup Eight. These two fours with the addition of Ian Clubb and Rob Paver from the NSW Kings Cup Eight became the backbone of the winning Champion Eight crew the next season. The 15-year-old Newington coxswain Stuart Carter was steering the senior four and followed up the next season with the NSW and Olympic eight.

My apprenticeship as a coach was gaining momentum with the Olympic Dream alive and well for Montreal 1976.

Part III will be published tomorrow.

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