1968 - Jim Earl - President & Club Coach
1968 - Harry Vella - Club Coach
1968 - Eva Bory and her squad at Merrylands Swimming Centre
1970s - Harry Vella coaching a morning training session at Merrylands Swimming Centre
1970s - Training at Merrylands Swimming Centre
1985 - Glad Pye - Secretary & Club Coach
2001 - Training at Granville Swimming Centre with Kristen Sunner
2004 - Kristen Sunner, Club Coach, at the Merrylands SwimFest
2005 - Training at Wentworthville Swimming Centre - Kristen Sunner's final session
2005 - Peter Johnston - Club Coach & Learn to Swim Coordinator
2009 - Training at Merrylands Swimming Centre
There have been a number of coaches at the Merrylands Swimming Centre since it opened in 1968. The club coaches have been both amateur and professional, paid and un-paid, with various levels of success over the years, however they have all had one thing in common: a passion for swimming.

Jim Earl & Harry Vella were the club's first coaches and they ran a free service for kids that could not pay for training.
Jim was in the Fire Brigade while Harry lived across the road from the pool and they were able to work around each other to run the training sessions. When Merrylands Swimming Centre closed during the winter, sessions would be held at Fairfield.

The club started the free Learn to Swim in the second season and as the kids progressed through the Learn to Swim, they joined Jim and Harry for training. Hundreds of kids used to turn up for the Learn to Swim held at the pool on Saturday mornings after club.

Later when Jim Earl left the area, Harry's wife, Nan took over the afternoon sessions and Harry coached in the mornings. This suited both of them as their daughter Karen was already there training anyway, plus they loved it. Harry and Nan showed a great deal of commitment to the club and the swimmers by providing this free service, especially considering Karen was training with the other coaches at the centre.

During the same period, there was also professional coaching at the centre, which parents had to pay for. This coaching was run by Alex and Eva Bory. Alex and Eva were members of the Hungarian team for the 1956 Olympic Games and after competing at the Olympics, they applied for and were granted political asylum in Australia. The younger kids trained with Eva, who did stroke correction, and the older ones were with Alex. As the numbers grew after a couple of years, they hired John Bowen to help them coach. All three were excellent coaches. Although many club members were members of their squad, neither Alex, Eva or John were ever members of the club.

During this time the Bory's used 2 lanes and Jim & Harry used 4, leaving 2 for the public. Harry & Nan left the club and moved to the Central Coast in 1979.

After the Vellas left, the club was without a coach for the 1979/80 season and when it was still without a coach for 1980/81, Glad Pye took on the position of Amateur Coach. Glad coached a number of swimmers during her time in the position, in particular coaching Astrid Howton to Gold in the 100m Backstroke at the State Championships.
Glad remained in the position through to the end of the 1985/86 season when she had to relinquish the role due to work commitments.

Following Glad's tenure as coach the club again found itself unable to fill the position. To provide coaching to the swimmers, some of the parents and club captains ran free training sessions on a couple of afternoons during the week. These sessions were well attended by club members at times, with the club purchasing equipment, including a number of pairs of flippers in various sizes, for the swimmers to use while training.

In 1991/92, Holroyd Council was approached by Jim & Ros Harby, who were looking to run training sessions at the pool. The council subsequently granted them permission to coach at the pool and the club encouraged members to join the new squad. By the end of the 1993/94 season, the Harbys had left the pool and the club requested to council that future arrangements be more reliable.

At the start of the 1994/95 season, the council granted Kristen Sunner permission to coach at the pool and the club encouraged members to begin training with the new squad. Before coming to Merrylands, Kristen had been coaching under David Wick at the Guildford Swimming Centre. The following season Kristen did not plan to continue coaching at Merrylands, so the club requested, and was granted the coaching rights at the centre. However before the start of the season, Kristen re-considered, and the club subsequently appointed her as the club coach for 1995/96.

During the winter, when Merrylands Swimming Centre closed, Kristen would move the squad to other pools to enable the swimmers to keep training. Winter training sessions were initially held at Granville Pool. In 1996, having not been happy with the conditions at Granville, Kristen took the squad to the Wran Leisure Centre instead, however they returned to Granville the following winter. When Granville was closed for re-development in 2003, winter sessions were moved to Parramatta which had recently been heated, and then to Wentworthville Pool once it was heated in 2005.

The appointment of Kristen and the opportunity for members to train all year round with the same coach led to a period of stability which had been lacking for the previous eight years. This led to increased attendance at training and a gradual improvement in results with more and more swimmers competing at higher and higher levels.

By December 1994, with so many swimmers having joined the new squad, Kristen hired Peter Johnston as one of her assistant coaches to coach some of the younger swimmers in the afternoons. Over the ensuing years, Peter would also fill in by coaching the older swimmers when Kristen was unable to do so due to work, family commitments or holidays.
At the beginning of the 2000/01 season, Kristen appointed Greg Towle as another one of her assistant coaches. Kristen had coached Greg at Guildford when he swam for McCredie Park and with his appointment he joined Kristen in coaching the morning sessions. Greg would coach the older swimmers, allowing Kristen to concentrate on the younger ones. With Kristen continuing to coach the older swimmers in the afternoon, and Greg coaching them in the mornings, the club recorded their most successful performance under Kristen's coaching, as the club's 2001 NSW State Age Short Team won 5 medals from 11 events. Greg left the club at the end of the 2001/02 summer season. He was appointed as the Australian Open Water Head Coach in 2006.

In 2001, Kristen coached her first National Age Qualifier and ultimately first National Age Finalist for Merrylands. Troy Tomkinson competed in 3 events at the 2001 Australian Age Championships, finishing in 5th place in the final of the 50m Freestyle. Kristen also coached Troy to the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Australian Age Championships.

Kristen resigned as the club's coach at end of June, 2005 following the 2005 Metropolitan Short Course Championships and the club began the search for a new coach.

The club's goal was to have a new coach appointed before the squad was due to return to Merrylands for training in September, 2005 and Peter Johnston took over the coaching of the squad in the interim. Following an extensive advertising and interview process, Peter was appointed as the club coach for the 2005/06 season and remains in the position today.

Since Peter's appointment, the number of swimmers in the squad has continued to grow and there is now a clear pathway from both the Club and Council run Learn to Swim programs, into the squad program and the club. There has been an influx of younger swimmers over the past two seasons, while the club's representative teams continue to grow and improve, building on the work that Kristen started with our representative swimmers over 10 years ago. Merrylands Swimming Centre was heated in 2004, and the centre now operates 8 months of the year, however the squad still moves to Wentworthville Pool for training each winter when Merrylands closes.

For the 2007/08 season, Peter introduced an Adult Squad for parents and other adult club members to improve their fitness. It is fantastic that in our 40th Anniversary Season, one of the current members of this group was originally coached by the club's first coaches, Jim Earl & Harry Vella, 40 years ago.


Succession of Coaches
1968/69 to 1971/72 Jim Earl & Harry Vella
1972/73 to 1978/79 Harry & Nan Vella
1980/81 to 1985/86 Glad Pye
1991/92 to 1993/94 Ros & Jim Harby
1994/95 to 2004/05 Kristen Sunner
2005/06 to present Peter Johnston


Assistant Coaches
The following is a selection of club members that have worked as assistant coaches over the years:
Dylan Baker
Matthew Jenkin
Amber Johnson
Brittany Johnson
David Johnston
Peter Johnston
Rachel Johnston
Sarah Johnston
Simon Johnston
Abby Krige
Meaghan Legge
Steven Nguyen
Nicole Smith
Greg Towle
David Wang


Thank you to the following members who provided information on the club's coaches:
Karen Robertson née Vella
Doreen Cashel
Gladys Pye
Margaret Edwards née Smart

Other Sources:
Whales Tales Newsletter (19/12/1992; 29/10/1994; 19/11/1994)
President's Reports (AGM 1994; Swim Centres Meeting 1994)
HCC Business Papers (2/5/1995)

See Also

  • Mr Harry Vella, Life Member

  • Mrs Glad Pye, Life Member

  • Mr Peter Johnston, Life Member

  • Whales Tales Newsletter - November 19, 1994 (PDF 1MB)

  • Merrylands at the Nationals

  • A Mixed Bag for Troy at the Nationals

  • 2001 NSW State Age Short Course Championships

  • Club Coach Resigns

  • Farewell Kristen

  • Kristen Sunner - Head Coach, 1994-2005

  • New Coach Appointed


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    Training Session
Harry Vella coaching a morning training session at Merrylands Swimming Centre in the early 1970s.
    Training Session
    Harry Vella coaching a morning training session at Merrylands Swimming Centre in the early 1970s.