Class of 1965

Nick Richard Marshall Garratt was a homegrown best in class rower whose track record and wins with the First Eight at Aquinas translated into one of Australia’s best rowing coaches. He was in the winning crew of 1965 at the Head of the River which after a false start and a delay of one hour was one of the greatest rowing wins in Aquinian history: In a first-ever achievement, every Aquinas crew won that day.

He continued rowing throughout his studies in Business at Curtin after leaving Aquinas College, but never finished as demand for his coaching skills in rowing proved a distraction too far. After coaching for Aquinas College and Hale, he stroked the WA King’s Cup crew for three straight years and then eventually coached full time. The journey to becoming world-class took many twists and turns. One occurred while working in Sydney at the sports sponsorship division of TAA, the Australian airline. He encountered a group of youngsters playing on the street who seemed aimless and needing direction. Typical of the man, he persuaded them to take up rowing and coached them in his own time while holding down a busy job. The success of this group and the club led to an offer of a coaching position in WA.

The list of achievements he has as a coach are too numerous to list but worthy of mention is the 1996 World Junior Rowing Championships. Garratt’s crews made great strides: with Old Aquinian Stuart Reside winning the first-ever gold for Australia in the Men’s Single Scull; Old Aquinian Jonathan Fievez and Tim Perkinsin another inaugural win in the Men’s Double Sculling event. The following year he helped Amber Bradley take gold in the Women’s Single Scull.

Nick coached over thirty national team crews including five Australian crews in four successive Olympic Games, starting with Sydney in 2000. In the 2016 Australia Day Honours list he was awarded an AM for Service to Olympic Rowing. In 2012 Nick was asked by Rowing Australia to coach the Women’s VIII to try to qualify for the last spot in the London Olympics. Against all the odds the young crew won the qualification race, and after just six weeks together, made the Olympic Final. They came sixth against far more experienced crews, some of whom, like the USA team had been together undefeated for six years, and the Romanians, who had medalled every Olympics since 1980. Nick’s crews have won over 50 Australian National Championships, and he has coached more than 30 Olympians.

When the phone rang to ask him to take on the High-Performance Program with the ACT Academy of Sports Rowing Program in Canberra it was in recognition of an already illustrious career as a coach. On leaving Mosman to take on the role of head coach of Rowing ACT much tribute was paid to him for doing what he does best: recognising and inspiring young talent: “For Nick, it is quite simple: good character and sound values are worthwhile aims in their own right, but they also translate into superior athletic performance.”

Looking back before he passed away in 2019 Nick paid tribute to Brother Neil (“Slick”) Wilson who was “so charismatic and just grabbed a bunch of us and enthused us with the art of rowing”. A generation of young rowers would say exactly the same of Nick.