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Following two pandemic-affected years, Shelly Beach on the NSW Central Coast finally gets its chance to host the 2022 NSW Surf Life Saving Interbranch Championships.

For the first time since 2019, the best athletes from each of the state’s 11 Branches will descend on one location to compete and bring points home for their team.

A contingent of 426 athletes are slated to take to the sand and surf over the weekend, with Sydney Northern Beaches Branch looking to defend what has been an avalanche of recent victories.

The Branch took out the 2017, 2018 and 2019 iterations before COVID-19 would bring competition to a halt for two years, and the 45-strong team will be looking to add to their 11 Interbranch Championships since the first competition in 1996.

In fact, since 2011, Sydney Northern Beaches has finished first on the podium seven of a possible nine times. The other two years, 2013 and 2016, they finished second. Ironically, both of those finishes came at a Central Coast beach – Soldiers Beach, just a handful of kilometres north of Shelly Beach.

With so many years between competitions it’s expected each Branch will stand a chance of achieving some great results.

“It feels like something I’ve said about many of our events this year, but we know our athletes absolutely love Interbranch, so it truly is great to be back,” SLSNSW Director of Surf Sport, Don van Keimpema said.

“It’s such a unique event in surf sports – athletes competing not just for personal success but in a team dynamic unlike any other.

“It’s going to be great to see big teams from up and down the coast coming together and getting behind one another to achieve some really good results – we can’t wait for the weekend.”

The defence of three straight titles for Sydney Northern Beaches will begin on Saturday with the Ironperson events running concurrent to the Beach Sprints on the sand.

Beach specialist and former Terrigal competitor, Emelyn Wheeler is looking forward to the challenge of helping her new Branch claim a fourth consecutive Interbranch Championship and will lean on the success she’s had with Newport, and maybe a little local knowledge, in helping to grab an upper hand.

That said, Wheeler has spent the last few days recovering from sickness and hopes to bounce back just in time to be fit and firing for her team.

“I also had an injured ankle the week before and couldn’t really train then either, but I’ve trained hard all year and I’m just excited to get out there,” she said.

“At least I’m with my team and everyone is going to work hard, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jazzmyn Fillingham of host club, Shelly Beach is also looking forward to getting back out there, and perhaps even snapping a winless streak for Central Coast dating back to 2007.

The Branch has traditionally experienced success at the event, having finished on the podium and was even the inaugural winners of the Championships, but in recent years fell behind Hunter Branch in the pursuit of a top three finish.

“The team aspect is so much fun, it just takes a bit of the pressure off and adds to the enjoyment you get being out there and competing,” she said.

“We’ve got all these chants that we’re going to learn, so hopefully the older guys get into it because the younger competitors love that sort of thing and it’ll really add to the team atmosphere.”

The 2022 NSW Interbranch Championships will be held at Shelly Beach SLSC on the weekend of 3-4 December. Competition on both days begins at 8AM.

Thursday 1 December 2022