Schoolgirl rowing in Brisbane has existed in one form or another for nearly a century. Both St Margaret's and St Hilda's include references to rowing in their school magazines dating back to the first decade of this century.
During this time, schoolgirl rowing was largely recreational. Towards the middle of the Eighties, several small groups of girls began competing in the Annual Queensland Schools Championships each September. Most of these girls came from families with an older brother who rowed at one of the GPS schools. Word of this challenging "new" sport began to spread throughout the schools and by 1989 a mini-explosion of schoolgirl rowing had taken place. Most schools were operating from a local club with the help of club coaches or parents with a rowing background.
The following year a representative from three of these schools, Tony Elliot (St Margaret's), John Hanson (Brisbane State High School) and Peter Jell (Somerville House) decided it was time for a more structured season of racing. On 13 October 1990 the Inaugural Schoolgirl's Head of the River was held on the Milton reach of the Brisbane River. The seven schools that competed were All Hallows', Brisbane State High School, St Aidan's, St Hilda's, St Margaret's, St Peter's and Somerville House. Sixteen events were competed with 118 competitors and 3 entries in the Open 8+.
In 1991, Tony Elliot, John Hanson and Peter Jell formed the Brisbane Schoolgirls Rowing Association adopting the logo from the now folded Brisbane Districts Rowing Association. The logo depicts Brisbane's flower, the Poinsettia, over the top of crossed oars. The newly formed association conducted the Head of the River with additional competitors from Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, Clayfield College, Indooroopilly State High School, Kelvin Grove State High School and Stuartholme School.
By 1992, entries in the Open 8+ had doubled to six, the number of events expanded to 19 and 11 schools competed.
1993 saw the dominance of Brisbane State High School and Somerville House in the Open 8+ broken for the first time. Brisbane Girls Grammar became the first school to win an Eight's race outside of State High and Somerville. This year saw the first presentation of the Grummitt Family Trophy donated by the Grummitt family and was presented to Brisbane State High School. The trophy was back-dated to the Inaugural Head of the River in 1990.
Problems with the starting system in 1993 and doubts over the fairness of the river prompted the 1994 Head of the River Regatta to be held at Lake Wivenhoe for the first time. The Open First 8+ race was extended from 1500m to 2000m and was won by Somerville House.
In 1995, insufficient water at Lake Wivenhoe meant that the Head of the River was moved to Hinze Dam. 1995 also saw the beginning of a development plan to change younger crews across to Quad Sculls. This move was made to provide girls with a better technical and physiological development. This year also saw the first presentation of the Aggregate Trophy (now The Aggregate Cup for the Champion School) for the most successful school and was presented to Somerville House.
1996 saw the full implementation of the BSRA development plan with Year 8, Under 14 and 15 girls all competing in Quad Sculls. This has produced competitive and high quality racing across these groups. The inaugural presentation of the Percentage cup based on school population was made to Somerville House. All Hallows' achieved their first Head of the River victory in the First VIII, while St Margaret's won the Aggregate cup for the first time.
The 8th Schoolgirls Head of the River demonstrated the enormous growth of schoolgirl rowing in recent years. With nearly double the number of events and a 670% increase in competitors from the Inaugural year, it was the most competitive on record. St Margaret's won both the First 8+ trophy and the Aggregate Cup with Somerville winning the Percentage Cup. Meanwhile, the Associations by-laws were changed to identify crews by year level rather than age, which eleviated problems with a minority of girls rowing outside their peer group.
Lourdes Hill College Hawthorne participated in invitational rowing in BSRA in 1999 and full membership was granted in 2000.
Member schools of the BSRA have produced many State and National representatives including Khaleda O'Neill (BSHS) and Karen Worrell (Somerville House) who won a Bronze medal at the 1997 World Junior Rowing Championships. We are now even starting to see previous competitors emerging as successful coaches including Tracey Martin (Somerville House) who coached a Quad scull of girls from BSRA member schools to victory at the 1995 National Championships.
As the Brisbane Schoolgirls Rowing Association ages, we are bound to see more and more high performance coaches and athletes emerge from our developing ranks.