History Repeats in Torquay Surf Life Saving
In the 1970’s and 80’s John (The Moose) Russell was an outstanding participant in surf life saving in Torquay.
John joined the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club in 1959 and was appointed a life member in 1976. He was an accomplished rower and surf boat sweep at the Club,and at State and national levels. Amongst other things, John was a member of the Victorian Team in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1989, and 1993, The Australian team tour of New Zealand in 1972 and the Victorian Team USA Tour in 1971. Before stepping back in 1994, John swept the Jan Juc Boat crew to its first Victorian Title, Subsequently John has been sweep coach and mentor for a number of crews and clubs and also actively assists generally in TSLSC activities and remains a greatly respected member.
As John’s more active participation in and on the water necessarily lessened as the inherent vigour of youth faded, another Russell began to have the family name inscribed in the records of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club.
John’s daughter Melissa is currently a member of the Torquay Open Women’s Surf Boat Crew which competed in the national titles on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland earlier this year where they were denied a silver medal by a rogue wave that came out of the blue just before the line. The crew had also made the final the previous year.
Melissa started with the Nippers in 1988 and performed creditably in board racing and beach relay. In the early 2000’s she moved to rowing, first competing at International level in flat water before changing to surf. In2004 she was a member of the World Open Women’s Champion Crew who rowed at Viareggio, Italy. Melissa continued to distinguish herself as a rower until she moved overseas in 2007. On her return to Australia in 2010, Melissa rowed with both Torquay and Jan Juc clubs, her crew winning the 2016 Victorian Open Boat title at Lorne that paved the way to the Nationals.
Melissa is currently the Patrol Captain at Torquay and holds an advanced life Saving Gold medallion. She was nominated for a Pride of Australia Award for showing exceptional courage in the rescue of two swimmers off Torquay in 2015.
Melissa’s achievements in the Surf Life Saving world make a worthy bearer of the Russell family flag in the history of the TSLSC.
Although Melissa’s mother Jan has not been as intimately involved with TSLSC, as have Melissa and John, her sporting record must be acknowledged in any chronicle of the Russell family history. Jan was an exceptional flat water rower. She was the foundation Vice Captain of the Corio Bay Ladies Rowing Club and secured gold medals in both fours and pairs at the National championships in 1974. With such DNA, Melissa was destined for greatness in a boat and hopefully her story still has a few chapters to be written.