Friendship and fun: Grada Richards and Pat Gabb have been rowing together since 1997, and competed at the World Masters Games in their signature ‘crazy leggings.’ Photo: SUPPLIED

Master rowing double to retire

September 9, 2021 BY

WENDOUREE-Ballarat Rowing Club masters Pat Gabb and Grada Richards are retiring from the sport.

Part of the club since 1985 as a parent to athletes, Richards began rowing with WBRC a decade later.

“In 1995, some friends from my basketball team felt the need for a new experience, and I suggested rowing,” she said.

“I asked Mark Wilson if he would like to teach a group of mature women how to row and he bravely accepted. Unfortunately, life got in the way and one-by-one, the crew shrunk.”

Richards learnt to row a single scull and enjoyed hours of fun on the water by herself, but when Gabb arrived at the shed looking for a partner, they “clicked” immediately.

“One of the best actions I have ever done is walk into the Wendouree-Ballarat rowing shed in approximately 1997 and ask if there was anyone who would like to row with me,” Gabb said.

“Grada happened to be in the shed at the time and said, ‘I will,’ which was the start of a wonderful friendship that will endure and continue to the day we die.

“Our time spent together has been full of fun, laughter, serious and relaxed rowing, support of the club and… each other in times of challenge. Participation and fun was the number one priority for us.”

The duo’s time on the water may be concluding due to Richards’ health, but there’s much they’ve achieved apart and together, and are proud of.

Studying physical education, Gabb was introduced to rowing on the Yarra River at the University of Melbourne.

“I was involved with the creation of the Melbourne University Ladies Rowing Club in 1969, developing a deep passion for the sport,” she said.

“I found myself at the start of women’s rowing in Ballarat when we travelled up to facilitate rowing workshops and the formation of the Begonia City Rowing Club who we subsequently competed against.

“I was involved in the creation of Lake Hamilton and the start of rowing in that town, whilst I drove or flew to Melbourne each weekend to train.”

Gabb made the Victorian State four in 1971, and the first Australian women’s pair in 1972.

“I was also working towards Olympic selection, but it was decided not to send women to the Olympics for rowing,” she said.

Once they met, Richards and Gabb would row together at 8.30am on Monday mornings after school rowers had left the shed.

In 2002, they went to the Australian Masters Rowing Championships in Adelaide, and competed at the Ballarat-hosted World Masters Games in women’s and mixed eights, and sculls.

Both athletes rowed at separate times in the State Masters eight, and when Lake Wendouree was dry, they drove to Nagambie or Geelong to row.

Richards said she is sad to say goodbye to her beloved sport, but that “25 years is a good innings.”

“I will leave you with my rowing motto; row anywhere, in any boat, anytime, with anybody,” she said.

Richards’ single scull will now be rowed by a young girl at WBRC, while Gabb’s double scull is to be donated to Ballarat Grammar.

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