“We Follow Our Crews, No Matter What” Our Rowers prepare for the Head of Schoolgirls Regatta

“We Follow Our Crews, No Matter What” Our Rowers prepare for the Head of Schoolgirls Regatta

In 2022 and 2023 the MGGS Rowing Program experienced two of the best years in its nearly 40-year history.

We saw back-to-back record-breaking performances at Head of Schoolgirls, multiple gold and silver podium-finishes in the National Championships (2022 in Nagambie and 2023 in Perth), and appearances at the internationally renowned Henley Royal Regatta. This success is the result of years and years of hard work, dedication and perseverance not only from our rowers, but from their families, the Merton Hall Rowing Club (MHRC) and our highly committed rowing staff.

The Merton First VIII win Nationals in April 2023 in Perth, Western Australia.
The Merton First VIII win Nationals in April 2023 in Perth, Western Australia.

Over time, a solid and purposeful culture of commitment, excellence and enjoyment has been crafted and developed by those who have contributed their time and passion to the MGGS Rowing program. Our Rowing Development Framework emphasises fundamental skills and focuses on process, enabling our rowers to establish, develop and execute the skills they need to perform and excel; all while facilitating community connections, fun and a well-rounded foundation of fitness for each of our rowers.

Currently, they are hard at work preparing for this year’s Head of Schoolgirls Regatta, but we took a moment to chat to some of our rowers, coaches and staff about their experiences in MGGS Rowing and the upcoming HOSG Regatta.

What is your favourite Head of Schoolgirls memory?

“My best HOSG memory was last year. We’d (The Eaton, Second VIII) just rowed our A Final and had to quickly get changed and rush to the bank to join the Merton Army to follow the First VIII in their final. We just have the best community ever, with all of them running down…the noise…I thought we’d won…We hadn’t, but the excitement was insane. The crew that came last, they had no one around them. It goes to show that we don’t care where we place, we follow our crews no matter what. That was really special to me.” – Audrey Surace, Captain of Boats

“My favourite HOSG memory was in Juniors, running with the Merton Army for the First VIII A Final race. I didn’t really have any connection to any of the girls in the boat, or the program much yet, it was my first year of rowing. I ran with the Army and when they stopped, everyone was getting around them [the First VIII] and I just started bawling my eyes out. The vibe and the atmosphere of all the girls was amazing, and they lost, they didn’t even win!” – Lily Wallace, Vice Captain of Boats

The Merton Army circa 2011, racing towards the finish line alongside the First VIII during their A Final race at the Head of Schoolgirls Regatta.

What made you want to be involved in the School’s rowing program as a coach?

“Having been through the program, I can see the incredible life skills and character-building the MGGS rowing program nurtures. Rowing played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today, and I wanted to be a part of carrying this through and provide the same opportunities and experiences to current MGGS students and assist in shaping them into the incredible people I have no doubt they’ll all become. As we always say, ‘we’re not just here to make good rowers; we also make good people’, which I think is an amazing thing to be a part of.” – Bella Logie-Smith, Senior Rowing Co-ordinator and Old Grammarian (2016)

Why do you think it is important to know how to push and challenge yourself beyond your perceived limitations?

“Rowing is a tough sport, developing skills and values like no other. The ability to adapt, persevere and push yourself is so essential in all aspects of life and when learned and experienced, can be translated into everyday challenges. Knowing your limits and how to push them builds a strong character, which will benefit you for the rest of your life’s endeavours.” – Carla Mitchell, Junior Rowing Coach and Old Grammarian (2023)

“Preseason is rough, there are no set crews, no set coach and it is frustrating not to know where you sit. But where you end up…Making it to HOSG A Finals…To Nationals…It is well worth it.” – Audrey Surace, Captain of Boats

Why is rowing in the newly-named Second VIII boat, The Bella Logie-Smith, special to you?

“Rowing in the Loges is a privilege for me – I get to row in a boat named after someone who has personally inspired me and had a big impact on my life both in and outside rowing. From morning bus rides, to coaching my crew, to giving advice on school, rowing, and life – Bella has been a rock in my life since I first began rowing in 2020 and I’m super excited to do her proud at HOSG.🩷” ­– Zoe Paul, Senior Rower 

2024 Senior Squad surprise Senior Rowing Co-ordinator Bella Logie-Smith, unveiling her new Second VIII boat, February 2024.

How would you describe the MGGS Rowing Program?

“The culture in our program is just the best – inclusive, supportive, motivating, exciting and fun.”  – Audrey Surace, Captain of Boats

Junior Rowers celebrate after their Head of Schoolgirls race, March 2023.

Do you think you will row next season and why? What about your experience makes you want to return to the program?

“I think I will row next season because it will be a good experience and I would love to learn more about it. I really enjoyed getting to learn how to row and I loved meeting new people through the sport.” – Isla Smith, Junior Rower

“Tom [Sanders, First VIII Coach] motivates me to keep going each season. He has always expressed his belief in us and is always so positive. I know he believes in what I can do, which is sometimes more than what I believe I can do. Having him [as a coach] for the last three years, he’s been what has pushed me to come back again and again.” – Lily Wallace, Vice Captain of Boats [on what or who motivates her to return each season]

2023 Rowing Squad, March 2023.

[To Audrey and Lily] What has been important to you in your roles as Captain and Vice Captain of Boats this year?

“We want to influence the Juniors and Inters and ensure they understand they are valued and loving the community they are a part of while in rowing. I want to make sure that our younger girls see us as supportive and as role models. We love saying hi to them in the hallways and our main goal this year was to be present and go that extra bit further and connect with all rowers in the program.” – Audrey Surace and Lily Wallace, Captain and Vice Captain of Boats

What are you excited about for this year’s Head of Schoolgirls?

Inter rowers make their way up the transit lane towards the start line past the Merton Hall Rowing Club Parents’ tent and Hub, March 2023.

“I am so excited for my crew to experience their very first HOSG. It truly is an event like no other and one of the best experiences from my own personal rowing journey. I’m so excited to see all the Junior rowers’ hard work and months of training finally pay off and reward them with the satisfying feeling of passing the finish line. It is also such an exciting time to foster new connections within your crew and squad, connecting over the shared love of the sport and excitement of racing.” – Carla Mitchell, Junior Rowing Coach and Old Grammarian (2023)

What would you say to non-rowers considering coming to watch Head of Schoolgirls?

“You can’t experience the feeling of watching HOSG at any other school sport – it’s unmatched! It is such a special and exciting day that really makes you happy to be part of the MGGS community. All rowers want the biggest Merton Army possible there, showing their support and joining in the celebrations with them. It is a great day, with food trucks, coffee carts, all your friends –come down and sit by the river in the sun and get involved!” – Audrey Surace and Lily Wallace, Captain and Vice Captain of Boats

115 Grammarians in Years 9 to 12 have spent the last six months training hard on the water and in the gym to prepare for their Term 1 racing season, which culminates in the Head of Schoolgirls Regatta on the Barwon River in Geelong this weekend. After countless early mornings, ergos, time trials, dead lifts, squats and litres of blood, sweat and tears…the time has finally come!

HOSG attracts over 2000 athletes and even more supporters to the Barwon River every year and we welcome our community to join the Merton Army on the banks of the Barwon this weekend to cheer on our rowers. A bus of non-rowing Grammarians is fully booked to bring the Merton Army cheer squad to Geelong on Sunday for Finals!

Keep an eye on our social media channels for updates (via @melbournegirlsgrammar OR @mggs_artemis)…we are looking forward to sharing the 2024 results with our community!

If you want to stay updated with race times, results and finals details over the weekend you can access the HOSG Rowing Manager and Livestream here.