WHEN one thinks of rowing in Ballarat, Eric Waller is usually the first name that springs to mind.
The doyen of Ballarat rowing marked the end of an incredible stint with the Wendouree-Ballarat Rowing Club at the weekend, retiring from his post as president after 35 years at the helm of the club.
In addition to 20 years as captain of Wendouree-Ballarat from 1959 to 1979, it signals the end of an unwavering commitment to the club.
No doubt Waller will still be seen lingering around the Wendouree-Ballarat boatshed, although it will no longer be in his official capacity after 55 years at the top.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to step back and hand it over to the young blood,” Waller said.
“It’s no good waiting too long – the time has come and it is the right time.”
However, Waller’s commitment to Ballarat rowing is far from over.
He will still occupy his role as president of the Ballarat Rowing Association and will fill a key position when the World Rowing Masters come to Ballarat in October.
Reflecting on a lifetime association with Wendouree-Ballarat, Waller said it was near impossible to pick one moment that stood out in particular as a highlight.
Waller was an official at the 1990 World Rowing Championships at Lake Barrington in Tasmania, the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the World Masters Games in Ballarat in 2002 and is still Rowing Victoria’s field of play manager.
He is a life member of Rowing Victoria, the Ballarat Rowing Association and the Wendouree-Ballarat Rowing Club (joined in 1956), has been inducted into the Ballarat Sport Hall of Fame, is president of the Country Rowing Association and has received a Queen’s Medal for contribution to sport.
Of all the individual accolades, Waller said it was the silver medal by Garry Gullock in the quadruple sculls at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics that almost gave him the most pride.
“He was the first Olympic medallist Ballarat has ever produced and for him to come from Wendouree-Ballarat was great,” Waller said.
“There was a big party that night at the shed, and long into the morning.”
Also burning at the forefront of his memories was a certain golden era in the 1960s, where he co-coached with Ron Widgery the famous “cockies eight”, which went on to win 11 eight-oared events.
“It’s been an amazing thing to be involved in,” Waller said.
“Rowing in Ballarat is still in a rebuilding phase at the moment because of the drought we had. No matter what sport there is, if there’s a 10-year lay-off it’s very hard to rebuild.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead but I have no doubt it can be done.”
John King has been sworn in as incoming president of the Wendouree-Ballarat Rowing Club.