Lifesavers Prepare For Country Champs

The wait is almost over for the 1300 surf lifesavers who will be contesting the 2016 Stramit NSW Country Surf Life Saving Championships which get underway at South West Rocks from this Saturday.

Almost 4000 people including athletes, supporters, and officials will be descending on the idyllic Mid North Coast town for the two-day competition which is always a highlight for lifesavers based outside the metropolitan areas.

Athletes across the state are busy putting the final touches on their preparation with established names looking to build on past performances, and emerging ones out for own slice of success.

The Far North Coast Branch will be represented by almost 400 competitors with Cudgen Headland SLSC and Byron Bay both bringing strong squads.

Athletes to watch include 2015 Championship medallists Scout and Tex Hembrow, Zoe Hughes, and NSW Youth Team member Jy Timperley. Another whose star is on the rise is Yamba’s Kalani Ives who will be out to build on her encouraging performance from last season.

North Coast will be sending almost 300 athletes to the Championships with Woolgoolga SLSC, Coffs Harbour and Sawtell all heavily represented. It will be a family affair for the McConnachie family with five siblings all contesting the championships, while Tahlia Kollen will be out to build on her stunning 2015 Country Championship where she won multiple medals.

Mid North Coast will be fielding its largest team for some years thanks to hosting rights with almost 400 competitors participating in the Championships. Host club South West Rocks have entered a 68-strong team, while local rivals Port Macquarie SLSC will bring over 100 competitors.

About 60 competitors from the Lower North Coast will make the journey with Forster SLSC and Black Head SLSC leading the way in terms of numbers. In the feel-good story of the event, the 2016 carnival also marks the first major Championships that competitors from Taree-Old Bar will compete after the club has spent almost three years in administration.

Lifesavers from the southern branches won’t let the tyranny of distance deter them from attending this year’s event. South Coast will be sending over 100 competitors with Warilla-Barrack Point fielding 20 competitors, and last year’s hosts Mollymook sending 52.

A small but committed team of about 40 athletes from the Far South Coast will make the long trip north with Narooma SLSC and Broulee Surfers the two most represented.

NSW Surf Sports Manager Rob Pidgeon is anticipating a tightly fought competition.

“All the regions are sending strong teams with most clubs represented which is very pleasing to see. The Country Championships are a wonderful opportunity for our lifesavers to not only compete, but also to forge friendships with those from outside their area which only strengthens the movement,” Rob Pidgeon said.

“Reports from local branch and club carnivals have been impressive, and we’re looking forward to seeing all our lifesavers putting their form into practise.”

The Championships will also be a significant boost for the Macleay Valley’s economy with an estimated $6 million dollars expected to be injected over the course of the 2-year hosting deal.

The 2016 Stramit NSW Country Surf Life Saving Championships will be held at South West Rocks from 6-7 February.

Photograph - Action from the 2015 Stramit NSW Country Surf Life Saving Championships held at Mollymook on the state's South Coast.

Tue 2 Feb 2016