Club Patron - Lionel Robberds AM, QC, Olympian

In 1948, aged eight years, Lionel’s proximity to the Leichhardt Rowing Club and an interest in sport, caught the attention of a very active local member.

Lionel at age nine, was identified as having coxswain potential (i.e. giving tactical instructions and steering) and after an intensive training regime, steered the Leichhardt Lightweight Four oared crew to a NSW Championship win.  Lionel’s maturity and expertise able to manage older competitors, together with skills passed by leading club and state coaches and his willingness to listen, realised many state and national championship titles from 1951 in both Lightweight and heavyweight events, always with Leichhardt.

Leichhardt was the first Men’s Rowing Club to admit women with full voting rights.  Barely eleven years of age, Lionel was the coxswain of the NSW Ladies four oared crew, winning the Interstate Championship from 1951 to 1953, second place in 1954 and winning from 1955 to 1957.  Up to that time, Australian Rowing at International level had focussed on “heavyweight” men’s events.  Lightweight and Women’s rowing were not featured internationally.

At the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver, Canada, he was coxswain of the gold medal coxed Australian Four, ahead of New Zealand and England, and gold as coxswain of the coxed pair.

The 1957/58 season again with Lionel as coxswain and with the majority of his crew from Leichhardt they achieved Australian representation at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff winning a bronze medal behind England and Canada in the coxed fours and a silver medal in the eight oared crew behind Canada.

The Australian Champions over three miles with Lionel as Coxswain and Leichhardt Club Representatives 1959

1959 was the last occasion when the Kings Cup was run over three miles.  Lionel, as NSW coxswain of the State Champion Eight took the New South Wales crew to a National win for the first time since 1951.  Following Olympic trials, held both in Penrith NSW and Ballarat Victoria for the 1960 Olympic Australian rowing team, Lionel was the coxswain of the only Australian crew to make a final in Rome. - the Coxed Fours. It was not until 1962 that a full open Australian championship Regatta was first held, involving many more boat classes and rowing classifications.  Lionel’s range of Championship wins and national representation as a coxswain over the period 1951 -1964 will always be considered exceptional and possibly unique.

Out of the boat Lionel had been part of a pro-bono legal scheme for Olympians at the 2000 Games and was at times involved in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  From his position as Captain of the Leichhardt Rowing Club in 1963 to his appointment as Patron of the Club in 2008, he has given and continues to give much support to the sport and Leichhardt. He had been awarded Life Membership at Leichhardt in 1984.