Grand old Sultan of Sweeps dies


The Illawarra surf life saving community is mourning the passing of legendary boat sweep Don Burrows.

Burrows put himself on the map when he steered Wollongong City surf boat crew to the 1953 Australian title. He went on to win many Illawarra, NSW and national titles during a career spanning more than 50 years.

Despite a serious heart attack in 1976, he defied medical advice to retire, devoting himself to coaching and his role as club president.

"Don was the Sultan of Sweeps, a real legend of surf life saving," City media officer Larry Jennett said.

"To celebrate his 90th birthday, City's under-23 female boat crew sweep Brett Dingwall invited Don to take his girls for a nostalgic row around Wollongong Harbour.

"Despite his advanced age, Don had lost nothing of his renowned balance and poise with the long sweep oar in hand, and his eyes shone reflecting the memories of many crews past."

He won a silver medal in the beach flags at the 1951 national championships.

Burrows was also well known in rugby league and rugby union communities.

Nicknamed Sparrow because of his diminutive stature, he won league premierships with the Wollongong club every season from 1945 to 1951.

He captained an Illawarra rugby side against a Fijian team in 1954.

He is survived by wife Ula, daughter Lesley and granddaughter Donna-Mae.

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