The First Defence


On 30th June 1877, one year after Ned Trickett won the World Championship, he made the first defence of his title, competing against his long time rival and friend Michael Rush, an assisted Irish migrant who came to Sydney as a young 16 year old to augment Australia’s agricultural workforce.

The defence took place on Sydney’s Parramatta River and by all accounts electrified the colony. It was reported that more than 70,000 people (equivalent to one third of Sydney’s population at the time!) lined the banks of the river to cheer the competitors. Thousands more spectators watched from the many steamers following the race along the river.

Three weeks after the race, on the 21st of July 1877, The Illustrated Sydney News published a series of articles and illustrations celebrating the historic race, the competitors and the cheering crowds. In that issue they also inserted a fold-out ‘birds-eye view map’ of the River, showing the route of the race (familiar to generations of Sydney rowers) and an imagined aerial perspective looking West to the then township of Parramatta.

Below is a gallery of engravings used to illustrate the Great Race! and below that an extract from the article.

A special correspondent for The Melbourne Argus gave a lengthy and clever description of the race …

Later reprinted in The Sydney Illustrated News, Saturday  July 21, 1877