State's Best Ready For Interbranch Champs

An elite team of representative athletes from all 11 NSW Surf Life Saving Branches will this weekend be fighting for bragging rights at the 2016 Interbranch Championships, which will be held at The Lakes SLSC on NSW’s Central Coast.

The Interbranch Championships are a unique event on the surf sports calendar, with a maximum of 40 athletes from each branch, consisting of three male and female competitors in the Under 12, Under 13, Under 14, Under 15 and four male and female athletes in the Youth (U17), and Opens (U19 & Open) age groups who compete in both ocean and beach events.

With such a limited amount of athletes contesting each event, points will be at a premium during the two-day carnival, and finishing on the podium for their branch will be crucial in deciding who gets to take home the ultimate prize.

For the athletes themselves performances are crucial with the carnival being their last opportunity to push their chances of being named in the NSW Interstate team, which will be announced later this month.

In a continuation of last year’s changes to the format that included the implementation of Branch of Origin rule and drafting process, this weekend’s event look set to be closer than ever with a host of NSW medallists lining up to compete against each other.

The Branch of Origin rule gives country branches the option to pick a former open competitor who hasn’t been selected by their primary branch of residence. Hunter Branch made the most of this, selecting Australian and NSW Board Champion, Stewart McLachlan who moved from Redhead to Manly this season.

Meanwhile the draft also gives smaller teams a chance to select available athletes from the larger branches. The benefits of this practice are significant with the selected athlete getting the chance to further their own representative experience and competition increasing across the field.

This year the NSW Interbranch Championships return to The Lakes after the club last hosted the event in 2009 and 2010 which will bring smiles to the Central Coast Branch who will be out to improve on last year’s third place on their home beach.

Having been crowned champions for the last two seasons, Sydney Northern Beaches will be out to defend their title, while fierce rivals Sydney will undoubtedly be pushing to reclaim the title they last won in 2013.

After 6 years of finishing third and fourth in the overall standings, both the Central Coast and Hunter teams will enter this year’s competition confident of ending the Sydney juggernaut, while Illawarra will also fancy their chances.

All three branches have named strong teams and results from local carnivals indicate their athletes are hitting their straps at the right time of the season. For the athletes from the Country Branches (Far North Coast, North Coast, Mid North Coast, Lower North Coast, South Coast, and Far South Coast) will be using the event as their last chance to tune up against their bigger rivals before attention switches to February’s Stramit NSW Country Championships which will be held at South West Rocks.

Surf Life Saving NSW Sports Manager, Rob Pidgeon believes this year’s event will be keenly fought with all athletes at the top of their game for this, the first major NSW carnival of the 2016/17 season.

“The Interbranch is always a tough event with every Branch determined to do their best and score crucial points over their rivals. It’s always hard to predict a winner.

“Sydney Northern Beaches will be doing their best to defend their success from last year, but I am sure the other branches will be hot on their heels,” Mr Pidgeon said.

Full event details, team lists and timetables are online at www.surflifesaving.com.au/interbranch. Please note competition starts at 9am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday.

Photo: Athletes on the start line at the 2015 Interbranch Championships at Cape Hawke SLSC.

Tue 6 Dec 2016