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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 to be held on the state’s Lower North Coast this weekend.


Black Head Beach will host the Interbranch Championships for the first time since 2012, and is set to come alive in a burst of colour from Saturday as over 300 surf athletes do battle on the beach and in the surf in the quest for medal glory.

With 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 versatility a highly prized asset.

For the athletes themselves performances are crucial with this weekend a last opportunity to impress selectors ahead of the NSW team being named for the Interstate Championships, which will be held at Newport next month.

The fierce rivalry between Sydney Northern Beaches and Sydney looks set to continue with the two branches splitting the last 5 titles between them.  The Northerners currently hold the trophy after wrestling it back at Stockton in 2017.

Some of the experienced names to watch out for from Sydney include Riley Dixon (Wanda), Lily Finati (North Bondi), Elyssa Pierce (Wanda), and North Cronulla’s Leah Rampoldi, while the Newport duo of Max Brooks and Maddie Spencer have been named as captains of the Sydney Northern Beaches team.

They will be joined by a number of clubmates in the squad including among others Emily Doyle, Zach Morris, Connor Maggs, and Madison Louw, with Piper Harrison (Manly) and Joshua Gedz (Freshwater) also no strangers to representative success.

Hunter made history in 2017 when they finished on the podium (third position) for the first time in 15 years and they will be out to reconfirm that status with another strong performance.

Cooks Hill, Redhead and Swansea Belmont have been the dominant surf sport clubs locally in recent years and they again provide the bulk of the athletes for the representative team.

Bella Williams, Lara Manning, and Fletcher Meyers are among those who call Cooks Hill home while Ethan Coates, Australian champion Nick Stoddart, and Eliza Johnson will be flying the flag for the 2019 State Championship Hosts Swansea Belmont.

Redhead’s Nicola Owen, Amelia Ross, and NSW Ironman Champion Daniel Collins have all been selected to compete in the Open Division and will be keen to perform well for their hometown branch.

Still smarting after finishing 4thlast season, Central Coast have picked a team boosted by plenty of experience as well as some exciting newcomers.

Lachlan Braddish and Rachel Wood (Umina) and Terrigal’s Rachelle King will be charged with the responsibility of being leaders in the team thanks to their extensive experience while U12 competitor Emma Duggan (North Avoca) who has performed strongly in the junior ranks gets her first taste at representative level.

A real strength of Interbranch has always been 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 Kingscliff on the state’s Northern Coast.

A number of athletes recently named in the NSW Country Representative teams to contest the Trans-Tasman and Interstate Championships will be taking part this weekend with Mollymook’s Brock Schriver and Sam Zustovich, and Jayden Allen (Warilla-Barak Point) selected for the South Coast team.

The Far North Coast team are out to defend their Country Branch title and will be boosted in that efforts with a number of outstanding athletes.

Earlier this week Maise Miller, Hayley Smith, Paige Leishman, Cahrizma McDonald-Cass, Anthea Warne, Sofie Boyd, Claudia Crawford, Nathan McKenzie, Luke Chafer, Angus Macphail and Kai Onley were among those named in the Country NSW squad for either the Trans-Tasman or NSW Country Interstate competition and all will get the chance to tune-up for January’s showdown this weekend.

Many smaller branches have once again taken advantage of the draft quota which allows them to fill their open team with athletes from outside the area to help mentor promising juniors and to ensure every branch is represented in races throughout the carnival.

Surf Life Saving NSW Sports Manager Rob Pidgeon 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,” he said.


Thursday 6 December 2018