Conditions are looking perfect ahead of the state’s major representative event this weekend at Bulli. The 2019 NSW Interbranch Championships brings together the best athletes from all 11 Surf Life Saving branches for two days of elite competition.
Bulli SLSC is more than ready for the onslaught of 350 athletes and hundreds of officials, team managers and coaches, after hosting the Nutri-Grain Iron Series event last weekend.
Each team of around 40 athletes consists of three males and three females across Under 12, 13, 15, 17 and Youth (Under 19s) as well as the Open division. The individual and teams events span both the beach and ocean, giving the athletes one final opportunity to impress selectors ahead of the NSW Interstate team being named.
Defending champions, Sydney Northern Beaches, who have won 10 titles since the event began in 1996, will look to continue their success at Bulli this year. A number of their competitors took part in a warm up last weekend at the Sydney Water Series and Super Surf Teams League, giving them the chance to test the course and conditions.
Team SNB have enlisted the powerhouse families from Newport; the Doyles (Kimberley, Katelyn and Emily) and the Morris juggernaut (Jake, Mitch and Zac), who dominated the water events at the NSW Championships, as well as key juniors from Manly, North Curl Curl, Freshwater and Mona Vale.
Team Sydney, who lost out to their northern rivals by only 13 points last year, has named a number of NSW champions to help find those essential points in 2019.
Sydney Captain and Interbranch veteran Elyssa Pierce (Wanda) said she’s looking forward to the rivalry pushing her team forward.
“We’ve got a good team assembled and some new faces in the mix. It’s a great team environment and ends up really close between us and Sydney. Hunter and the Central Coast are super strong too,” said Elyssa Pierce.
Commenting on the conditions based on last weekend’s racing, Elyssa said, “If it’s anything like last weekend with the wind you need to go south with the runners out in the water, you’ve got to make sure you line yourself up. It was actually really tricky so I hope there’s a bit of a wave on for us."
The Hunter team are stronger than ever and hoping to get themselves back on the podium and improve their third place position from the previous two years. Their Youth team holds significant promise with Under 17 NSW Ironwoman Champion Bella Williams (Cooks Hill) and the Swansea Belmont power duo of Nick Stoddart and Saxon Coates.
The Central Coast has listed a team that represents almost half of their branch and will be the only team to have a Nutri-Grain Iron Series athlete competing. Jemma Smith (Umina) is currently fifth in the series rankings and after competing last weekend, can bring the team information on the beach and keep spirits high.
Host branch Illawarra are excited to have everyone join them with Bulli themselves being represented by 17 athletes on their home turf. Look out for Zara Sharman (Bulli) the NSW Under 17 Surf Race Champion and Lucas Ottaway (Bulli) who will give the Morris boys a run for their money in the waves.
From the South Coast, expect to see a force on the sand with both Payton Williams and Sam Zustovich of Mollymook lining up in the Opens this year. Payton, the Under 19 NSW Beach Sprint Champion, could be dominant after a strong 2018/19 season while Zustovich is making a big name for himself in the Australian beach sprint and flags scene after sweeping the pool with Australian and NSW titles in both the Under 17 Flags and Sprint.
The South Coast has a solid representation from the Warilla Barrack Point club (with 31 of the 40 athletes) who continue to go from strength-to-strength with their youth development.
The Far South Coast has six of their seven clubs represented in their Interbranch team with draftings that include NSW Open Beach Sprint champion Alex Rampoldi (North Cronulla) who could bring them extra points on the beach. Elli Beacham (Narooma) the current Under 15 NSW Country Flags Champion continues to show the Far South’s talent pool will be back in the team.
This year the Miles family from Narooma will have all three boys Aidan, Riley and Kaleb representing their branch. Head Coach Andrew Holt (Pambula) whose son Kai is also competing says, “the Miles kids are outstanding members of the community. They’re really strong pool swimmers and they provide great depth to our team. They get involved with all aspects including helping out with the Nippers too.”
The North Coast team will bring to Bulli their best juniors and teams, in particular, those who won NSW Country titles this year. Expect to see Sawtell’s Toi Wordsmith who took out the Country Championships Under 13 Beach Sprint as well as Mitchell Hickey, Margaret McConnachie, Rhys Mulholland (Sawtell) who won Under 14 Mixed Surf Teams. Grace Milligan and Sophie Hinterholzl (Minnie Water-Wooli) also made the team. The pair are also the Under 10-13 Mixed Rescue and Resuscitation champions.
Like their northern neighbours, team Mid North Coast has a handful of Country Championship titles and among them, they will field Kate Filed (Port Macquarie) the Under 17 2km Beach Run Country Champion and Tyse Thrower (Tacking Point) who made a bang this year at Cudgen Headland taking out the Under 12 Board Race.
The Lower North Coast have taken advantage of a number of drafts from the bigger branches. Under the guidance of Head Coach Marty Cowper (Blackhead), the team made up of Forster, Blackhead and Cape Hawke athletes, hope to gain momentum over the weekend in the lead up to their Branch Championships and the Country Championships in February 2020. Claire Van Kampen (Cape Hawke) is the Under 17 Country Ironwoman Champion and hopes to continue her success to gain vital Interbranch points. Isabella Fitzgerald (Cape Hawke) will power up the young guns after claiming her own Country Title in the Under 11 Beach Flags earlier in the year.
Finally, the branch with the furthest to travel has great potential to pose a threat to the metro teams if they can adjust to the cold water. Under Head Coach and Cudgen Headland Ironman Scott McCartney, the Far North Coast team is stacked with the likes of Angus MacPhail (Cudgen Headland), Country Champion in both Open Flags and Sprint Cahrizma McDonald-Cass (Cabarita) and Lily O’Sullivan. The talented Warne family, including established high-performance athletes from Cudgen Headland Anthea and Joey, will be joined by sister Elisabeth in the Under 15s. The team has a solid lineup of athletes from Lennox Head, Ballina, Byron Bay, Cabarita and Cudgen Headland.
NSW Interbranch referee Michael Bate said he’s looking forward to the event and a big weekend of racing.
“There’s always so much energy at Interbranch competition. The calibre is so high across every discipline and it really sets the bar for the athletes ahead of our Country, State and Australian Championships,” said Michael Bate.
Individual Events: Beach Flags, Beach Sprint, Surf Race, Board Race, Ski Race, Ironman & Ironwoman
Teams Events: Surf Teams, Board Teams, Ski Teams and Iron Team
Relay Events: Rescue Tube Rescue, Beach Relay, Board Rescue Relay, Cameron and Taplin Relay
The Branch with the highest aggregate of points at the conclusion of the competition shall be declared the winner.
2018 NSW INTERBRANCH POINT SCORE
- Sydney Northern Beaches 1198
- Sydney 1185
- Hunter 1055
- Central Coast 1000
- Far North Coast 834
- Illawarra 722
- South Coast 675
- Mid North Coast 545
- North Coast 467
- Far South Coast 311
- Lower North Coast 267
Wednesday 4 December 2019