The toughest act to follow in New Zealand rowing? A no-brainer but the upside for Tom Murray and Jamie Hunter is they have first dibs on the coxless pair role done so outstandingly for so long by Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

Eric Murray's retirement and Bond taking a year out to pursue his cycling ambitions opened a door. Marlborough man Tom Murray has switched out of the eight, who finished sixth in their final at the Rio Olympics last year and was a world champion at junior and under-23 level.

Christchurch-born, Wellington-educated Hunter is stepping up from the lightweight category, where he was in the four who were fifth in Rio, having had World Cup victories and world championship podium finishes.

This will be a whole new league and they'll face crews who have had their backsides repeatedly kicked by the men who preceded them and who took rowing dominance to new heights.


Bond was coy yesterday on what the future holds. At 31, he has three years on Murray and not too long ago was beating Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale in his specialist single scull domestic events.

There's talk of Bond having a role to play in Rowing New Zealand's push to make their eight a success.

But for now Bond is focusing on his cycling career, which he's making a good fist of so far. He's off to Europe later this year to immerse himself in one of cycling's hotbeds to further his knowledge.

However there was a hint yesterday that rowing may not have seen the last of Bond, who has a burning desire to be the best he possibly can at whatever pursuit he's engaged in.

"I see myself as an athlete who happens to be cycling now," Bond said.

"But there's no reason why I can't be rowing in the future. I'm enjoying discovering what my potential is in cycling. That may not be to a level which I want to achieve.

"If that's the case I know how good I can be at rowing, I know I can be successful internationally so I've closed no doors."

But it won't be the same, the two blond bombers crushing opposition race after race, without missing a step for eight years. Say it slowly - 69 wins in 24 regattas, never beaten, six world titles, two Olympic golds. It's a phenomenal record.

"Certainly rowing with Eric made me better," Bond said. "He challenged me physically every single day. Having him in the bow I was having to hold one of the strongest people in world rowing straight for every stroke up and down the lake every day."

Bond spoke admiringly of never having seen Murray's head drop - "he was always ready and willing to suffer. That was his best quality."

He quipped that while Murray "rubbed the odd person up the wrong way, and me occasionally" he didn't hold a grudge and "he was a bigger team man than anyone I've [met] in New Zealand rowing".

And as for the inheritors of their seats, Bond gave the younger Murray [no relation to Eric] and Hunter a thumbs up.

"They're really talented. I've got a bit of respect for them and know what they can do. It's going to be interesting to see how they shape up against international competition with a full season of training under the belt."

Golden partnership

• Eric Murray and Hamish Bond won 69 coxless pair races, 24 regatta titles, six world championship crowns and two Olympic gold medals.

• They were unbeaten for eight straight years from 2009-16.

• Both were in the coxless four which won the world championship gold in 2007 but then missed the Olympic final the following year.

•Bond is taking a year out from rowing to focus on his passion for cycling.

• Rowing New Zealand are keen to ensure Murray is not lost to the sport, whether it be through coaching or mentoring roles.