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It’s been a very long time between drinks and after years of agonizingly close finishes surf lifesavers from the Hunter finally got to stand on the podium as bronze medallists at the recent 2017 Interbranch Championship.

Icing the performance was the fact they did it in home waters as well by virtue of Stockton SLSC hosting the annual event.

Hunter Branch finished third on the overall standings behind only Sydney Northern Beaches and Sydney returning the hosts to the podium for the first time in 15 years.

In fact Stockton Beach is proving to be a happy hunting ground for Hunter with the last time Hunter finishing among the medals also occurring at this location back in 2002.

Propelling Hunter’s rise was a number of strong performances across the two-day championship led by a core group of established athletes as well some exciting new talent.

One of those rising stars is Bella Williams from Cooks Hill.

“It’s been a great weekend for the team. We aimed for the podium so to achieve that is really good especially since we usually come fourth!”

Co-captain Daniel Collins himself a part of many campaigns past said it was an incredible performance.

“Finally we got there it’s been a long, long time in the making 15 years since we were last on the podium. For the young kids in the team I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet just what an achievement this is.

“It can’t be an end-point though it means a lot to us but I think with the talent coming through we can only get better. It’s exciting times for us here in the Hunter,” Collins said.

Indeed it could be claimed that the branch is on the cusp of the next successful era in the region’s rich history of the Surf Life Saving, but potential means nothing without performance.

Tara Neal, team manager, believes the increased professionalism has made a huge difference to the team this season.

 “We consulted a dietician, and a mindfulness coach and have tried to create more of a team spirit. They’ve been absolutely amazing this weekend. Cheering the team on in the Taplin at the end was the icing on the cake,” she said.

The NSW Director of Surf Sport, Don van Keimpema, thanked the Stockton club and the Hunter Branch for hosting the Championships this year and congratulated all the athletes, team managers, coaches and officials for their efforts.

“We’re hoping to build this event to be one of the premier events in the state. The team environment we had this weekend was absolutely fantastic,” he said.

Following the conclusion of the event, the venue for the 2018 Interbranch Championship was officially confirmed as Black Head SLSC on the Lower North Coast to be held next December.


Tuesday 19 December 2017