John Bade reflects on rowing, racing brilliance

TALENT: Former race trainer John Bade was also a top schoolboy rower, winning Head of the River with Geelong College in 1960. Picture: Nick Ansell

TALENT: Former race trainer John Bade was also a top schoolboy rower, winning Head of the River with Geelong College in 1960. Picture: Nick Ansell

John, what are your memories of the Head of the River victory in 1960?

It's nearly 50 years ago, so my thoughts are a bit sketchy. 

I can still remember there was a lot of celebrating.

The Head of the River was over 2400 metres on the Barwon River.

There was a massive crowd in attendance because back in that era it was a huge event, with all public schools from across the state competing.

The event took just over six minutes to complete.

There was eight in the crew. I was presented with the oar I used … I've still got it.

I reckon the oar will be passed on to one of my grandkids when I die.

Is the Head of the River still staged on the Barwon River?

No, they changed it to Nagambie years ago.

The reason was they made changes to various bridges over the Barwon River.

The Head Of The River is still a pretty big event, but nothing like it was nearly 50 years ago.

John, did you do much training in the lead-up to that Head of the River victory?

Yes. We did a lot of training.

We rowed every second night from January to April, and on the other nights we attended the gym or did running.

We were very fit and focused in regards to trying to win the Head of the River.

Let's move away from your achievement in the rowing classic. Did you play any other sports when you were growing up?

I got involved in various sports over the years. I played school footy at Geelong College before making my senior debut as a 17-year-old with Hamilton in 1960.

The game was against Casterton. Les Sweet, who had been playing with Port Melbourne, was coaching Hamilton at the time.

I played a few games but work commitents at that time made it difficult for me to get to training and to play.

I played with Coleraine in 1966. Former Richmond player Colin Saddington was the coach at Coleraine.

We got beat by Portland in the grand final before I went back to play with Hamilton in 1967.

The Western Border Football League was a tough competition back in that era.

My work commitments as a stock and station agent with Elders made it difficult for me to train or play many games again. 

I decided to hang up my boots with Hamilton at the end of 1972.

What did you think of the merge between Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials?

I'll be honest with you, I was not in favour of the merge. I just don't think it was the right thing.

There were two great footy clubs and the history of both those clubs will be forgotten as time goes on. I understand it's a changing world and the path was chosen for both clubs to merge, but I just have never accepted the decision.

Do you still follow footy now?

Yes. We live in Port Fairy. I've taken a keen interest in how Port Fairy plays.

I get to their home games and some away games. I was there on Saturday when they got beat by Koroit in the preliminary final.

The club has a good base in place for it to succeed in the future.

I've got three grandkids who play footy. Two in Warrnambool and one with Prahran juniors.

I'm a passionate Essendon supporter, which tends to upset my son-in-law especially when the Bombers play Collingwood on Anzac Day.

What would be the reason that your son-in-law gets so worked up on Anzac Day when the Bombers play the Magpies?

My son-in-law Ian McMullin is a board member with Collingwood.

He's been a board member since 1998. Ian played 25 games with the Magpies before playing 24 with the Bombers.

He's a very hard working and passionate board member. 

But it's fair to say we've had some robust discussions relating to footy over the years.

John, you mentioned that you've been involved in various sports over the years. What would the main ones be?

I trained racehorses for a few years and was on the committee of the Hamilton Racing Club.

I had a couple of term as president of the club. The best horse I trained was called Cut Price.

The late Warrnambool trainer John Lumsden won four races with him before I took over training him.

I won nine races with Cut Price, and three of those were in town. He was a good, honest horse.

We paid $216 for him at the Hamilton horse sales.

Cut Price had won just short of $100,000 in prizemoney when he was retired in the late 1980s, which was a lot of money.

He was just so honest. He gave a 100 per cent on his races.

Another horse which we raced was Roger 'N' Out. He was trained by Terry O'Sullivan. He was also very honest. I also played tennis and golf.

My dad Ron was a champion golfer at the Hamilton golf course.

Sadly, I never lived up to his achievements on the golf course.

I'm interested to know why a boy from Hamilton attended Geelong College?

My parents had money from the wool boom, that's the reason why I had a secondary school education at Geelong College. 

The family farm comprised of about 1500 acres which was made up of wool and beef.

I ended up leaving Geelong College and going home to work the family farm for 18 months before getting a job as a stock and station agent.

I've been in the industry for more than 50 years.

It looks like being a great season this year. 

The dams, streams and creeks are all full of water, which is a great sign for the farmers at this early stage of the season.

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