Rowing a winner for Gerry Dwyer

‘A Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rowing.’

This short entry in the King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours list reflects Gerry Dwyer’s dedication to rowing. Metropol writer Cheryl Colley discovers why the sport has been his passion for so long.

Gerry Dwyer

For more than 50 years Gerry Dwyer has dedicated much of his waking time to rowing, from beginners to Olympic level. His King’s Birthday and Coronation Honour is in recognition of that dedication.

“I was totally thrilled to be recognised,” says Gerry. It is an honour that I truly value, as I am well aware of how much work goes into making these nominations. Being part of the rowing community has never felt like work though. Rather it has been a privilege to be part of a tight team and to make a contribution to an activity I love.”

So how did this involvement with the sport all begin? “I come from a very sporting family – rugby and rowing in particular. I started my own love affair with rowing as the coxswain for my elder brother’s four-oared crew on the Wairau River in Blenheim back in the early 1970s. I was small enough then to take on that role, but eventually of course, grew out of it and went into my own boats.

“Initially, sculling interested me, both single and double sculls, but after doing a law degree and moving to Christchurch for a job, I then joined the Avon Rowing Club and rowed in the club’s premier eight.”

Gerry adds that in the 1970s rowing was very strong in New Zealand. There cannot be many people with even a modicum of sporting knowledge who do not know about the New Zealand eight winning a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games.
“These men were my heroes; true icons of sport in this country.”

Gerry continued to row until well into the 1980s. “It’s an addictive activity because you are always striving for perfection. It’s not just about slaving away on the oars going backwards! It’s actually more of a mind game about how to control your body in the right way to coordinate with others and make the boat go as fast as possible. That’s not easy to do well consistently.”

Gerry says that rowing in a crew boat eight is the ultimate team sport with great camaraderie. That is no doubt why once his own rowing days were over he wanted to maintain his links and connections with the sport. He had already been elected to the executive committee at the Avon Rowing Club and from there, moving into more leadership roles was a natural evolution. He became a delegate to the Canterbury Rowing Association and held most of the positions in that organisation, including that of president.

Over the years, Gerry has also held a variety of positions with Rowing New Zealand (RNZ). He was the manager of the U19 and U23 teams from 1992 to 2003. He was the Selection Ombudsman between 2003 and 2012 and has been a Race Official at
New Zealand Championships and Maadi Cups since 1994. He was also a member of the Rowing New Zealand High Performance Committee between 2000 and 2012. Furthermore he was a Director of Rowing New Zealand for 21 years, nine as Chair.

During his time on the Board of Rowing New Zealand Gerry was part of a team which oversaw a successful restructure of the sport. At that time rowing was not succeeding on the world stage and was in need of a radical re-think. This resulted in the centralisation of the high performance programme to Lake Karapiro and the creation of regional performance centres throughout the country.

Additionally Gerry is a valued and long serving member of the Sport Canterbury Board – a regional sports trust supporting sport, play, active recreation and physical activity participation across the Canterbury West Coast region. Julyan Falloon, the Chief Executive of Sport Canterbury, says “Gerry’s understanding of community sport in a local context and internationally through his connections to the rowing community provides a unique strategic skill set which has been hugely valuable to the governance of Sport Canterbury over a long period”.
All this amounts to a prodigious number of hours spent supporting sporting activities. How does he find the time to do it all? “I find the time because it is enjoyable. It’s different from my day job, and I have great support from my legal partners and from my wife Sheryl.”

Does Gerry do anything to relax from all this administrative work? “Relaxation now is watching sport – rugby and rowing primarily. I did try playing golf, but found I wasn’t very good at it and as I am something of a perfectionist, it was all rather an exasperating and frustrating exercise.”

Congratulations to Gerry on his outstanding achievements over the years and for being awarded the MNZM.


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