WEEKS out from competing in the NSW Rowing Championships rowers Max von Appen and Alexander McClean have their heads down with a firm focus on the future.
The teens, both aged 18, have known each other for years and have while they once played rugby their sights are now set on pair rowing and success on a national and international stage.
The rowers, who both live in Curl Curl and went to school together, are in the middle of gruelling training which sees them out on the water early each morning for twice daily sessions to hone their skills.
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Rowing didn't always come so easily to von Appen, who started the sport when he was in Year 7 at The Kings School.
"My older brother rowed and I was always forced to go and watch his regattas when I was younger and that got me exposed to the sport," he said.
"I probably didn't really realise how hard it was until you start doing it. From the outside it looks like a pretty easy and nice sport when you see the guys rowing on pristine water it looks quite fun and nice until you actually start doing the sessions it's actually quite hard.
"It was probably in Year 10 that I really started focusing on rowing because I wasn't too good to start with and seeing my brother represent Australia it was pretty hard for me seeing him compete really well. I wasn't bad but I wasn't amazing."
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Von Appen admits that "being in that average boat" was enough to spur him onto doing better.
"I was really lucky, I had this really great coach in Year 10 who just helped me along the way. He really helped me giving me training sessions, and my goal was just to try and make the first crew and then that happened," he said.
McClean started at a similar age when he was also a student.
"It was a school sport that was available and I started because my Dad, he grew up in the UK and he rowed as a school boy, and I'd heard so many war stories and so many interesting experiences he had in the sport and I was drawn to it because of that," he said.
"It's not exactly a sport that you enjoy for all the hours that you put in, there's moments that it's definitely hard and doing it is not necessarily enjoyable, but it's that feeling of development and of success that really drew me to it."
There's moments that it's definitely hard and doing it is not necessarily enjoyable, but it's that feeling of development and of success.Alexander McClean
For von Appen, rowing is a sport where the results come pretty quickly if you just put the work in.
"It's not likely rugby or tennis where you've got an opponent, you've got external factors that can impact how you perform ... with rowing it's just really individual and how well you put yourself into the sport and how much you focus on it," he said.
His top achievement so far was coming third in the single scull at nationals in 2019 and something he was hoping to better in 2020 before COVID-19 hit.
"Last year all the regattas got cancelled, that was when I was at the top of my age group and I was pretty keen to try and win nationals. That was one of my goals to try and win," he said.
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In 2019, McClean has was selected in the Australian team.
"I was hoping to do it again last year in 2020 but obviously everything that went on with COVID didn't really permit it," he said.
The duo's first event for 2021 is at the NSW Small Boats Regatta later this month followed by the NSW Rowing Championships on February 5. With a possible gap year of travelling Australia with his mates after finishing school in 2020, Max said his immediate goal is to make the Australian rowing team under 21s.
McClean is hoping to be selected in the national open team one day. "Obviously I'd love to go to the Olympics one day, but at this point in time I'm just trying to tick along and see how I go."
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