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australian rowers profiles and history

William L N Wallace

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC), then Adelaide Rowing Club (SA) from 1965, then Sydney Rowing Club (NSW)

Bill Wallace was a diminutive senior oarsman who achieved much in senior Australian rowing, and who became a giant of the sport as a school, club and State coach, state and national selector, boat race official and club administrator.  

1952 Victorian crew rigging their boat
From the left: Brian Doyle, Norm Cairnes, Neil Everist and Bill Wallace

1953 Victorian King's Cup Crew
Bill Wallace, third from the right 

Bill started his rowing towards the end of WWII as a junior in 1942-43 season arising from his great friendship with the Shears brothers. His first win was recorded in his second season on 29th January 1944 in the bow seat of a lightweight novice four at the Upper Yarra Regatta alongside Jack and Bill Shears and George Tatnall.

In December 1944 he won his novice four race and then other races in C Class races and Challenge races during that season. He also won trophies in the Young and Jackson Eights and Sprigg Time Trial to add to his collection.

The 1945-46 season saw Bill win his maiden races beginning with a maiden eight at the Metropolitan Regatta in December. He then started winning junior races with a junior eight win in February 1946. Bill speaks highly of his long and successful pair oared rowing career with Herb Shears, which commenced with a comfortable win at the Upper Yarra Regatta in January 1946. The migration from junior to senior was completed in the 1946-47 season with a senior eight victory. 

The successes which followed included numerous State senior championships and two King's Cups. It was a highly successful rowing career.

During this time, Bill was also active in club administration and developed into an excellent coach and noted selector. 

Work commitments with Lloyds of London led Bill to live in South Australia for about four years, then to Queensland and finally to New South Wales.

He recalls the changes that he participated in with rowing in South Australia. He was particularly proud of his 1966 South Australian crew which got very close to defeating the highly credentialed Victorian and New South Wales crews. His South Australian crew contained many young crew members, some barely out of school. It remains his most memorable and rewarding coaching role.

His school coaching career has encompassed Victorian, South Australian, Queensland and New South Wales schools.

Today he maintains a strong interest in the sport and in its history.

He fondly remembers his years at Mercantile and many of the great personalities of the Club. For example, he mentions that Jack South did a lot for the Club, the Shears bothers of course figure highly and he laments that Jack Shears did not go onto greater things with his rowing career. A conversation with Bill is so interesting that it is never a short chat.

The major details:

1948 - Victorian Men's Eight Championship, bow - Third

1948 - Victorian Men's Four Championship, bow - Unplaced

1948 - Victorian Men's Pair Championship, bow - Second

1949 - Victorian Men's Four Championship, bow - First

1949 - Victorian Men's Pair Championship, bow - First

1949 - Interstate Men's Eight Championships, bow - Third

1950 - Interstate Men's Eight Championship, bow - Second

1950-52 and 1958-59 - Mercantile Rowing Club Committee

1951 - Victorian Men's Eight Championship, bow - First

1951 - Interstate Men's Eight Championship, bow, Second

1952 - Victorian Men's Eight Championship, bow - First

1952 - Victorian Men's Pair Championship, bow - First

1952 - Interstate Men's Eight Championship, bow - First

1953 - Victorian Men's Eight Championship, bow - First

1953 - Victorian Men's Four Championship, bow - First

1953 - Interstate Men's Eight Championship, bow - First

1954 - Victorian Men's Four Championship, bow - First

1952 - Victorian Men's Four Championship, bow - First

1958 - Victorian Men's Junior Four Championship, coach - First

1959 - Victorian Men's Junior Four Championship, coach - First

1959-62 - Mercantile Rowing Club Captain

1960 - Victorian Men's Lightweight Four Championship, coach - First

1960 - Interstate Men's Lightweight Four Championship, coach - Third

1961 - Australian Universities Men's Eight Championship (Melbourne University), coach - Did not finish

1961 - Interstate Men's Lightweight Four Championship, selector - Third

1962 - Interstate Men's Lightweight Four Championship, selector - First

1964 - APS Head of the River, jury (starter)

1964 - Victorian Men's Lightweight Four Championship, coach - First

1964 - National Men's Lightweight Eight Championship, co-coach - Third

1964 - Interstate Men's Lightweight Four Championship, co-coach - First

1966 - Australian Universities Men's Lightweight Four Championship, co-coach - First

1966 - Interstate Men's Eight Championship, co-coach (SA) - Third

1966-70 - National Selection and Grading Committee

1968 - National Championships, jury member

1970 - National Championships, jury member


Andrew Guerin
August 2021

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