A long-time contributor to Australian rowing as an oarsman and administrator, Robin Poke AM has been recognised for his service as a Life Member of Rowing Australia (RA).
For Poke, the recognition is “overwhelming” as he joins Nick Green OAM, Doug Donaghue AM, Noel Donaldson and Katherine Bennett as 2020 Life Members.
“I’m astonished that I should be listed among the five people who’ve got this award because the four others are people I’ve admired enormously for a long, long time,” he said. “To be regarded up there with them is quite exceptional.”
Born and raised in England, Poke took his first tentative rowing strokes on the River Thames in West London at the age of nine.
“I was introduced to the sport by my father. He helped re-establish his club after the Second World War.”
While Poke said he “was never a national champion or anything like that” he did row at a reasonably high level, and even participated at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1957.
Poke migrated to Australia in 1969, where he joined the Mosman Rowing Club in Sydney and it was during his time there that he became involved in the administrative side of the sport. He came to Canberra in 1982 and is currently a member of the Canberra Rowing Club, “and have been for many years”.
Life Membership of RA is the sport’s highest honour. It is reserved for those who have demonstrated significant, sustained and high-quality service that enhances the reputation and future of rowing by virtue of their considerable contribution to rowing nationally.
In terms of his achievements, RA noted that Poke founded the national magazine, Australian Rowing, and was media liaison officer with the Australian team at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
“It’s just enormous,” Poke recalled. “The Olympics are the ultimate and going to an Olympic Games is the most sensational experience. It was beyond anything I’ve ever aspired to.”
Poke was also appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2013 ‘For significant service to the sport of rowing and the Olympic movement as an administrator, journalist and author’.
He has recently completed a two-volume history of Australian rowing “because no one else had ever done it”.
“Rowing is not a major sport and there have been rowing books by rowing clubs and states but until now no one has written a history of Australian rowing and I feel very proud of the fact it’s me that’s done it.”
RA President, Rob Scott, said, “Robin has contributed to the sport of rowing on so many levels – as a coach, an administrator, a journalist and author. He is passionate about rowing and has dedicated many years of his life to sharing his passion for the sport, not only in the ACT but across the country and the globe. It is fitting that Robin joins Nick, Noel, Doug and Katherine as our fifth Life Member inductee for 2020”.
RA will announce in due course the location for the Life Member appointments.