THEY took and rattled on bigger, richer, more experienced rivals and now a Ballarat City Rowing Club crew are making an ambitious play to level the playing field.
They have days to raise $22,000 to purchase an elite racing boat they can take to nationals in Tasmania this month.
Riley McCarthy, James Mavity, Will Gilbert and Wil McKechnie earned a swag of medals in the Rowing Victoria state championship regatta in Nagambie at the weekend. The one that means the most is a bronze medal they captured after finishing about seven seconds behind powerclub Mercantile and two seconds off Melbourne University, featuring Australian representative John Linke, in the open coxless quadruple scull.
The Ballarat City crew smashed their personal best time by 12 seconds after leading for more than half of the 2000-metre event.
The difference, they said, would be in a boat that could make up 10 to 15 seconds, or 30 to 40 metres.
In the Ballarat City crew, McKechnie (stroke) and McCarthy (bow) are studying VCE at Damascus; Mavity (two-seat) graduated from Damascus last year and Gilbert jumped into the three-seat when studying year 12 at St Patrick's College last year.
Gilbert said their combined aim was to keep demanding attention on the water for Ballarat's rowing community, to strengthen a pathway for former school rowers and to prove what Ballarat athletes were capable of achieving.
He said the crew was under no illusions how tough race day would be - new boat, or no new boat.
Melbourne crews might see Ballarat City on the start list and think they've got us covered but we've turned a few heads.- Will Gilbert, Ballarat City
"I feel like sometimes Melbourne crews might see Ballarat City on the start list and think they've got us covered but we've turned a few heads," Gilbert said.
"The boat we've got at the moment is not bad - we're grateful, it's good for racing - but nationals we want to be at the same level. We don't want to say we lost because we're in a heavier boat - we want no excuses."
The boat they have their eyes on is a second-hand, Fillipi four in great condition and the right design.
Usually priced upwards of $38,000, the crew has sourced this Fillipi for $22,000 and know it would not last long.
Gilbert said Ballarat City was a great club - but the money and resources in Melbourne-based clubs and interstate powerhouses were a complete different level.
This is not about what school you're from, just a chance to pursue rowing as a passion and put together a strong pathway.- Will Gilbert, Ballarat City
"It can be hard as an ex-school rower to pursue a rowing pathway in Ballarat," Gilbert said. "This is not about what school you're from, just a chance to pursue rowing as a passion and put together a strong pathway."
This crew has been training together daily, sometimes twice a day, for almost a year.
Their efforts at the weekend also secured the male under-21 coxed quad scull title, a first in the male B-grade coxed four by point-17 seconds (or the bow ball) and second place in the male A-grade coxed quad scull.
But they set the tone in their bronze medal win, jumping stronger crews from the start in what Gilbert said "showed them what we're made of".
Gilbert said when they train, session in and session out, they trust each other's strength and ability but it was great to pinpoint this against the state's best.
He said the boat was about far more than shaving time off for national competition but a resource for Ballarat under-21 and under-23 rowers to keeping aiming to take their games to the highest levels they could.
Follow the crew's boat bid on Australian Sports Foundation's project website.
Rowing Australia's Australian Rowing Championships are on Lake Barrington, south of Devonport in Tasmania, from March 22 to 28.
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