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In a day of perfect race conditions at Blacksmiths Beach, North Curl Curl took out the 2020 NSW Age Surf Life Saving Championships, by a comfortable margin of 70 points over second-placed Coogee.

Cooks Hill continued its strong performance to claim third place on the podium, although it was unable to retain its junior championship title. Host club Swansea Belmont narrowly missed out on a podium finish, trailing Cooks Hill by just nine points.

However, it was North Curl Curl’s massive win - and their considerable improvement on their seventh place in 2019 - that had everyone talking. It was a remarkable effort considering they fielded a modest team of around 80 competitors.

North Curl Curl Team Coach, Michael Clues, said that after an incredible Teams day, all the kids were on a high and he was confident of picking up points in the water – particularly in the U12s and U13s. Although he didn’t expect to be ahead of Wanda at the end of the competition.

“The result is a bit surreal to be honest. Our goal at the start of today was just to stay in the top five and to try and get 170 points. And that would have been exceptional for us with around 80 kids,” said Michael Clues.

“The result is huge, but as I say, it’s the kids. It’s a cliché but it’s a huge club effort,” said Clues.

When asked how the club had improved so significantly in just 12 months, Clues said the secret was to make training enjoyable for the kids and to have a great coaching team behind them.

“We haven’t done too much differently. The more fun we make it, the more kids keep coming back. We make it fun but if they make a mistake at training, I make them buy me a snake! Maybe that’s it,” said Michael Clues with a smile.

“But seriously, we have a fantastic coaching group. I’ve got Sean Davis, who is former Australian Captain and former Swansea Belmont competitor, Andrew Dennehy who’s a Manly lifeguard and Alex Oaks who’s come on board this year – he’s exceptional. And Tony William’s awesome legacy.”

Michael Clues said that while there had been some fresh competitor talent coming into the club in the past 12 months, the club’s focus was nurturing their existing competitors.

“We don’t seek new kids but we don’t turn anyone away either. You’ve got to nurture what you’ve got and I’m proud to say that 90% of what we’ve got is local talent. Not too many kids have come on board from other clubs.”

Sydney club Coogee, which fielded a team of 130 athletes, improved on their strong performance in the team events, and third place overall last year, to take-out second place in the overall point score after a blistering weekend on the beach track.

Coogee’s Sand Coach Renee Gibbs, said that the secret to Coogee’s strong performance was passion.

“I think it’s engagement of kids and families and making kids feel special and valued. And seeing themselves progress and develop, it brings them back every year and they want more,” said Renee Gibbs.

“Yes, we train four to five times a week, but we focus on the kids having a good time and building them up and feeling like one, big family. And a lot of our success comes from that – they want to work hard and they want the results,” said Gibbs said.

Coogee Competition Coordinator, Michael Cavanagh, said that Coogee, which has one of the biggest Nippers programs in the country, has a team of 200 kids in training and a great program that they’ve built on.

“Every year we build our point score by identifying areas we need to work on. It’s a bit like squeezing a lemon - trying to get the absolute most out of the program. We’ve got a great sand program and a terrific R&R program that continues to deliver us points. And we picked up points in the 1km Beach Run too,” said Michael Cavanagh.

“But the water area was the one area that was holding us back. And we’ve put a lot of investment into developing that program. Not financial investment but time. Blood sweat and tears,” Cavanagh concluded.

For the Hunter region and the host club, the outstanding performance of Swansea Belmont’s Zara Foran was a highlight. In her last junior championships, she won all her individual events (swim, board, ironperson) and was integral to the team win in the U14 mixed Cameron relay.

In the U14 Ironman, there were few who were surprised by the decisive win by Conner Maggs from Newport. The favourite for the prestigious title came home strongly in the easy conditions.

It’s clear that both North Curl Curl and Coogee have had an upward trajectory over the past few years of competition. But when asked what the future holds for North Curl Curl - and if they’d be able to replicate the same performance next year - Michael Clues was circumspect, saying that staying on top of the podium was a big ask - but that there was more talent coming through in the U13s and U14s.

“Someone brought to my attention yesterday that every girls board relay got a medal. So irrespective of where they came, they have something to be proud of - and it’s all points. And then today was just ridiculous in the individual events. There’s no doubt that we’re very, very female-strong.”

This year was the second time that a dedicated Inclusive events program was run as part of the Championships. Around 35 Nippers with a disability competed for fun and medals, double the number of last year. Clubs from around the state who conduct Inclusive Nippers programs were represented.

The Championships continue this week with the Masters Championships and then again on Friday 6 March with the Opens weekend. The NSW Surf Life Saving Championships are proudly supported by Your local club and Lake Macquarie City Council.

Top 10 – Overall Pointscore

  1. North Curl Curl 289

  2. Coogee 219

  3. Cooks Hill 184

  4. Swansea Belmont 175

  5. Wanda 159

  6. South Maroubra 130

  7. North Cronulla 126

  8. North Bondi 101

  9. Elouera 90

  10. Newport 81