Biography

Dave Rodger
Born 1955

Because of his long career in rowing and his high-profile involvement in sport since, Dave Rodger has become a particularly well-known New Zealand sports name.

Just turned 21, he was the youngster in the 1976 Olympic eight that won the bronze medal at Montreal, but had already had plenty of international experience. He was chosen for the New Zealand Colts in 1973, and in 1974 in Lucerne and 1975 in Nottingham he won world championship bronzes at senior level in the eights.

The New Zealand eight that went to Montreal in 1976 – Ivan Sutherland, Trevor Coker, Peter Dignan, Lindsay Wilson, Athol Earl, Rodger, Alec McLean, Tony Hurt and cox Simon Dickie – had a lot on their shoulders because they were defending the crown won so magnificently in Munich four years earlier.

The 1976 eight was well-regarded, even if they hadn’t been as dominant as the gold-medal winning team of 1972. Five of the 1976 edition – Coker, Wilson, Earl, Hurt and Dickie – had won gold medals in Munich.

At Montreal, the New Zealanders didn’t get the start they were after when they were beaten by Australia in their heat. However, they rowed well in their repecharge, beating Germany and the Soviet Union, and recorded the third-fastest time of the finalists.

As coach Robertson wanted, they were away quickly in the final and by the 500m mark had opened a one-second lead. After that things got tougher and they were pulled in first by Britain and then by eventual winners East Germany, and had to settle for the bronze medal.

Rodger was in the bow when New Zealand won the coxless four silver medal at the 1977 world championships in Amsterdam and was a member of the eight that won the bronze medal at the 1978 world championships at Karapiro.

He was named in the coxed four for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which New Zealand boycotted.

He continued rowing into the 1980s and under coach Harry Mahon won world eights titles in 1982 and 1983 and was a member of the eight that finished fourth in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He won more medals at world level than any other New Zealand rower of his era.

For many years Rodger was the strongman of Waikato teams, winning national eights titles in 1978, 81, 82, 83, 84, fours in 1978, coxless fours in 1984 and 85, and coxless pairs in 1977, 78 and 81.

He married Dianne Zorn, a leading New Zealand athlete. In 1984 at Los Angeles, they became the first New Zealand husband-and-wife team to be chosen for the same Olympic Games.

Rodger coached a school level and for some years ran a sportswear business in Hamilton with a branch in Rotorua. He had a long involvement with Sport Waikato and became a Rowing New Zealand Academy coach. He was one of the rowing officials in the New Zealand team that attended the Olympic Youth Festival in Sydney in 2005.

Rodger’s 1982 world title-winning eight was named New Zealand Sportsman of the Year (a precursor of the Halberg Award) in 1982 and inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.