Victoria Cup Challenge reunites '94 Champs

Published Tue 12 Mar 2024

In a unique twist of fate, history repeats itself on the waters of Matilda Bay, 30 years apart.

In 1994, four women from the University of WA Boat Club contested the Victoria Cup, the Interstate Women's Lightweight Four - and won.

Three decades on, in March 2024, four different women from UWABC will again contest the Victoria Cup, lifted by the women that came before them.

Photos: Sue & Emma handing the State Uniform to 2024 Vic Cup athletes Hayley Rowe & Sienna Tolomei. Credit Pat Boere Photography.

This story of camaraderie, dedication to a craft, and a shared boat, reminds us of the power of sport to forge connections that withstand the test of time.

Words below from Sue Peacock.


"This morning was the first time in 30 years (yes since about July 1994) that the 1994 UWABC women’s lightweight four and their coach Warren Gibson had stepped into the UWABC shed..


Left: The 1994 Victoria Cup crew reunited at the UWABC shed - the Lyz Philp is the same boat they rowed in '94, and the 2024 crew has used to train.

Right: (L-R) Craig James OAM, Sue Peacock, Lara Glendinning, Sienna Tolomei, Isabella Emery, Hayley Rowe, Emma Cross, Tamsin Keevill at the 2024 Beefsteakers Breakfast.

The four came together to mark the 30 year anniversary of their win in the 1994 Victoria Cup on Lake Barrington in Tassie - the first one for WA - which broke a 16 year Victorian winning streak. 

After winning the national title in the coxless four the day before, the crew had to come from behind and rowed through the Victorian crew in the last 500m to take the win. In those days the event was still a coxless four, converting to a quad a few years later. The change to the quad was made once the lightweight double was added to the Olympic program (first time was the 1996 Atlanta Olympics)…that meant sweep was out and we all had to change over to sculling and the coxless quad and 2x became the priority boats for lighty women.

Fun fact: there was no second or thirds in those days…all rowing events were winner takes all which is why there are no other crews with us on the podium…I don’t know when that changed...

The crew of bow Merome Beard (Hall), Emma Cross, Elizabeth Moir and stroke Sue Peacock coached by Warren Gibson had also come first and second in the pair earlier in the week and after some arduous selection regattas and trials before and after the nationals were eventually selected as the Australian lightweight four which competed in Canada and Europe before the 1994 world championships in the US.

Warren had been coaching women at UWABC since the 70s and went on to become a very successful WAIS coach of junior, lightweight and under 23 women. (Including Olympian Emy Snook’s first coach)

In 1991 he decided to put together another lightweight women’s squad (he coached lightweights in the late 1980s but most had to head to Victoria to try and make national teams) in an effort to win a Victoria Cup and get rowers selected on the Australian team.

He had coached Merome as a junior when she became the first rower from WA (male or female) to be offered a rowing scholarship at the brand new Australian Institute of Sport!

Warren would say of this crew that as a whole it was far greater than the sum of its parts…in other words we were nothing special as individual rowers but together we could move a boat.

Emma had come from a cross country running background (originally from Bunbury and she is Sophia Cross’s aunty) across to rowing around the age of 20, while Elizabeth was in Perth College’s first ever schoolgirl crew (and was coached by Gwenda Kennedy who was a PE teacher there). Merome also rowed at St Hildas while Sue had never seen a rowing boat until she ventured down to the UWABC in her second year at UWA because she heard they had good parties!"



All photos courtesy of Sue Peacock.