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Port Kembla SLSC’s Open Male Surf Boat sweep, Jack Patison says the crew that handles the pressure best will finish with the spoils and the bragging rights when two of the country’s best sweeps go head-to-head in a winner-takes-all tussle for a State Title at the 2023 NSW Surf Life Saving Championships.

Surf boats hit the water from 3-5 March at Queenscliff/Nth Steyne and while the depth of talent in NSW means no one team is a certainty to take the crown, all eyes will fall on the Open Male crews from Port Kembla and Bulli SLSC as legendary sweeps Jack Patison and Shane Geloven try to carve every inch of advantage out of the tricky Northern Beaches break.

The Illawarra feud dates back more than a decade and multiple clubs, with Jack having first built his friendly rivalry with Shane at Austinmer SLSC before being pulled out of retirement to sweep a little further down the coastline.

“I was retired for five years and they talked me into coming back,” Jack said.

“We’ve done it with a couple of mates and we’ve all just clicked, we’re getting better and better every week and the future is bright.

“I’ll sweep for the Open Female crew as well and they’ll be just as tough to beat come finals time. They’re all handy rowers. We all are, really.”

Handy doesn’t tell half the tale – the Port Kembla crews have grown in strength and number since Jack returned, with crew numbers across Reserve, Open and Masters divisions having tripled.

The Open Men contested the Trans-Tasman Cup in New Zealand in early February as Australian reps – winning their series 3-0 – meaning their preparation has been strong leading into the NSW Championships.

Bulli, too, has had its fair share of training and competitive preparation; Shane’s Open Male crew was part of the NSW team that competed for the Interstate Cup and then, as Bulli, took out the ASRL National Championship less than a week after the Port Kembla crew returned from overseas.

It’s a rivalry that both are looking forward to continuing.

“As it goes for the State title, Bulli has pretty much owned it for a long time now and they’re the ones to beat,” Jack said.

“There’s been a friendly rivalry there for a long time. They don’t think it’ll be easy to beat us and we’re the same.

“That won’t change and that’s exciting, you wouldn’t be a competitor if that didn’t challenge you.”

“We’ve had a great ding dong battle for many years now, and nothing has changed now that he’s at Port Kembla,” Shane agreed.

“Picking up another title, it’s going to take you beating the best in the State; Australian crew in Port Kembla, they’re one of the biggest targets, then there’s South Curly and North Narra and plenty from Sydney that are always looking good.

“We’ll take every year as a new year but we do have a nice record sitting behind us.”

Bulli is the most recent champion of the Open Male event, doing so in 2021 at Swansea, and the crew is looking forward to another chance at bringing home a title.

“It’s definitely high on our agenda of carnivals to win, it’s nothing to slouch upon, a state title to your name,” Shane said.

“It helps to have four of your best mates in the boat with you too.”

For Jack, the Port Kembla boys know they’ll need to be at their best come race day.

“My guys are very experienced and good under pressure, when you get to the pointy end of a State title there’s pressure, we’ll throw our hat in at the end and see what we can do,” he said.

“I know our preparation will be important and we’ve been doing it for a long time.”

Tuesday 28 February 2023