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There’s the unmistakable sense of excitement in the air as surf lifesavers from all 11 NSW Surf Life Saving Branches finalise their preparations for the opening representative surf sport event of the summer which will be held this weekend.

Stockton Beach will be the venue for the 2017 Interbranch Championship with the Hunter Club delighted to be hosting this prestigious carnival for the first time since 2002.

A decade and a half may have passed since those heady days, but the Interbranch Championship still maintain a special place on the surf sports calendar.

While only 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, Under 17, Under 19 and Open age groups who compete in both ocean and beach events, selections must be strategic.

With a limited number 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, and versatility is a skill that is highly valued.

For the athletes themselves, performances are crucial with this weekend being their last opportunity to impress selectors to be named in the NSW Interstate team to travel to South Australia in January.

After regaining the title at The Lakes SLSC last summer, Sydney Branch are confident of earning their second straight trophy. But their rivals from the other side of the Harbour Bridge won’t let them have it all their own way.

Both Sydney and Sydney Northern Beaches have named experienced sides.

Carla Papac, Ngaire Hadfield (Cronulla), and Riley Dixon and Keira Warn (Wanda) will be out to bring their club form to their Branch side, while Northern Beaches captains Laura Shorter and Max Brooks will lead the charge for their team along with Manly duo Naomi Scott and Jay Furniss who are no strangers to this level of competition.

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.

Hunter in particular have named a very strong squad with Bella Williams (Cooks Hill) and Nick Stoddart (Swansea Belmont) who are in the U15s, both National Youth Champions. Redhead SLSC competitors Nicola Owen, Lily Costello, and Daniel Collins are also expected to perform strongly.

The Central Coast will be boosted by the return of Tim Schofield (Terrigal), and Umina duo Rachel Wood and Jemma Smith who are all lining up for their branch after their highly successful trip away with the Australian Life Saving Team earlier this month.

One of the real strengths of this competition is that it gives up-and-comers the chance to race alongside the more experienced athletes, and gives the U12s their first taste of high level competition.

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 larger rivals before attention switches to February’s Envirobank Country Championships which will be held at South West Rocks.

Surf Life Saving NSW Sports Coordinator Luke Stigter is anticipating a highly competitive weekend of racing.

“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.

“At the end of the day it’s a great chance for all the Branches to come together and we’re looking forward to getting to Stockton and seeing what the athletes can do,” said Mr Stigter.

For further information about the 2017 Interbranch Championship, please visit the Official Event Page


Thursday 7 December 2017