Aussies wrap-up

~Warwick Everingham

Coogee’s recent effort at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Titles was much more than I had hoped for. Our masters led the way for the week as we have come to expect. Results in the beach sprint arena saw me drinking cocktails at the Hula Bula bar later that evening. Patrol Comp and Champion Lifesavers provided their usual haul of medals. We often expect good results from these areas. Results attained in other disciplines were also outstanding in their own field.

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I can start with our water athletes, a cadre of swimmers and craft paddlers, most young and others very new to our club. The Under 15 water area was a long way north on Scarborough Beach After tread the 15 minute hike up there I only just managed to see the final few moments as Sam Cantarella crossed the line with Coogee in sixth place. That’s a point for the club and the first of the Open carnival. They shoulda been fourth. Even I saw that. I don’t think we expected anything at all only a couple of months earlier. These young lads who grabbed a bronze at State proved at Aussies they have the stuff required to go on with it in years to come. From accounts, they were disappointed with the sixth place figuring they certainly could have finished fourth. But they also had a belief they could grab a medal. Somewhere along the way these under 15 athletes started believing in themselves and now we do also. We look forward to your future efforts Phillip Trupke, Tom Foley, Isaac Tooher and Sam Cantarella.

The under 17 water talent did not have the easiest of times in a highly competitive age division and so did not find similar success. Jack Cuthbert, Will Mison and Clay Cantarella are part of what has been building as a credible craft and swim team under the guidance of Michael Cantarella the area captain, and Andrew Bargenda who has been maturing into a coach of high regard in this field. Thanks Michael and Andrew for allowing the club the opportunity to be sending a dozen or so boards and ski’s to the national titles. It has not happened that way for a long time and it is very much due to your efforts.

In the under 19’s we had only one competitor in Ben Thornton. Ben made the final of the under 19 surf race and finished 10th. He led the field after the swim in the semi-final of the under 19 iron man but could not make the final. I think Ben is under 19 again next season so will get another crack at it.

In the open age division, Line Lauredsen, this season, joined us from somewhere in Europe. Line made the final of the Open surf race which is another terrific effort from a Coogee competitor. Line was a terrific team member at the Aussies and was a great help to our younger girls (Emma and Tara) all week in Perth. Do you really need to head back to Denmark Line? We have so gotten used to having you around and swimming in our two blue cap.

There were a couple of young ladies who pretty well looked after themselves all weekend and also competed in a huge number of events. Emma Grand and Tara Hayes were very highly regarded and popular amongst our team. These two girls can be held up high for all our club members to look to as a great example of what our Coogee girls can achieve when they set themselves to it. Emma herself travelled to Perth on the off chance she would be able to compete in the Champion Lifesaver. Having finished fourth at State she was a second reserve for the event and luckily the cards fell Emma’s way, she found herself in the draw and after a gruelling day’s competition finished with a bronze medal. Emma also competed in the 2k beach race and the rescue tube race. She competed with Tara in a rescue board race.

Our Open Mixed Patrol Comp and Champion Lifesavers had all done extremely well earlier in the week. The patrol team finished in third place and were chuffed with their medal. Amy Teale finished fifth in the Open Champ Lifesaver as did Paul Jefferson. Anthony Schubitz took a masters crown, Michail Papadopolous placed second in masters and Rob Illidge grabbed us some more points with a fifth place. I think at day one of the open competition after our lifesaving results, Coogee was in first or second place. Good time for a cyclone to call off the rest of the titles.

On the same days as the lifesaving action, our masters were doing well. We had only a small number of them. About 15 veterans had travelled to Perth for the titles. But as we have come to expect they had a big impact. After the masters events we were in tenth place overall and had won an amazing four gold medals, eight silver and three bronze. We had another fourteen results contribute to the club point score. Other masters gold medallists were Chris Gately, Tod Mison & David Loche in the 130 years surf teams, Rona MacNiven the 2k beach race and David Loche, the 40-44 years surf race.

Coogee's masters set a target which was always going to be difficult to retain in the tough arena of the Open competition. But we are now used to that. One thing we cannot overlook in all this, however, is the sheer joy with which our veteran athletes take on the challenge of the race. They do it, I am sure, simply because they can. Victory is never assured, always sought, but never an absolute requirement. They seem happy to be just doing it and more so because they do it with Coogee.

On the beach Thursday and Friday it was our beach competitors who really got us up in the Aussies point score.  Jessica Thornton did as we hoped she would do in winning both the under 17 and the Open women’s beach sprint. Jessica won these races most comfortably. Despite the apparent calm with which she did it, I am sure there was some apprehension and anxiety under the surface. I am not sure this has been done before. Still at the age of 15 and the national champion in her chosen event, Jessica has become one of Surf Lifesaving’s superstars. Have no doubt about this. Jessica’s face and form will be all over SLSA’s publications and promotional material in the year ahead. And there is no reason to think she will not continue to be this superstar for seasons to come. And Coogee Surf Club? We can be very happy and very proud to know that Jessica is a product of our junior club and will continue to be part of our senior club. Near as I can see, Jessica and her family are very much navy and sky blue in all things. I could not see her race as I was involved in events elsewhere but am assured the open race was as decisive as it was at State. Next season we will surround Jess with a beach relay team and should be able to do so into the future as a number of our younger runners move up the age division.

Our other sprinters could not get through to the finals. Hugh Millar, Luke Irvine, Jake Irvine and Will Harrison all made it through to semi-finals. A few others made it through to the quarters. Relay’s are always what we strive for and so we waited for the first final, the under 19’s. I should have listened to the very strong statement made by our beach team at State when they won nearly everything. But, I am always a bit wary of State results. The Aussies are a very different thing and very much tougher. At the nationals we have to contend with a number of strong clubs which are well heeled and administered to within an inch of their lives. Currumbin, Mooloolaba, Sorrento, City of Perth, Grange, Trig Island and others are all strong beach sprinting clubs which give us grief at the nationals.

At some point our under 19’s had become our most favoured team. Hugh Millar very experienced at Aussies, Jake Irvine with one year (and what a good year it was) but running up three years in this one, and brother Luke Irvine the novice. The team was completed by Jack Harrison who started with us in the cadets (under 15’s) and has been trying for an Aussies medal of any type for four years. The last three of them I have seen Jack’s face tell the same story at the end of his relay leg, “How did we get this far behind? How has it all gone so wrong? How can we recover from this? Well we can’t, can we”.  Not this time. The team led from the start and was never headed to win the gold medal. The Coogee team on the hill pretty much met this result with a stunned silence. We had hoped for a lot but so much more had been delivered.

Our under 17 team had suffered a number of setbacks. Tom Fagan who had been in great form earlier in the year had a serious spinal injury and was replaced by Jackson Deans-Harvey. Sean O’Byrne had a groin strain and Ben McDonald’s knee was somehow in three pieces. Only Jake Irvine was totally fit and he had just run a race in the under 19s. The lads gave a good account of themselves against a number of tough teams and grabbed a silver medal.

The under 15 team, were short one member the week before State. Billy Ryan joined Hugh France, Will Todd and Will Harrison to make up the team. A week before State they also had decided they would not head to Perth. Too far, too costly, too young. In the excitement of the lead up to State titles they each made a pact with their parents. If they got a medal at State they would go to Perth. They got gold. In fact they had run third but two DQ’s gave them the first place, so we could not be expecting too much of them at Aussies. They ran so much better on the sloppy sand which is Scarborough beach. The NSW teams who had beaten them at State were left spitting sand from their faces as our under 15’s sailed into a well-run second place and a silver medal. As our under 15 R&R team were to do in a couple of days’ time, they had put their best run out there on the day of the Australian finals.

Jack Harrison made the final of the under 19 beach flags which gave us the opportunity to behave as parochially as we had done a half dozen years earlier for Adam Sparrow. The Scarborough Flags arena is a major spectator event and no one deserved to be in the star performer spotlight more than Jack. Competing against some majorly big guys, Jack showed good form early and gave all of us watching a ripper of a time. He dipped out for a well-earned fifth place and more points for the club.

Our boat crews showed some good form earlier in the year which gave cause for hope at championship carnivals. Unfortunately we were not able to deliver on that earlier form. In tranquil conditions at State they had made it through to semi-finals. With similar conditions at Scarborough Australian Titles our A crew, Reserves and Under 23 crews made their way through to quarter finals but failed to  proceed beyond.

We will continue to look to the future for our rowers. Coogee is and always has been a boat rowing club. Beach teams and R&R have been major contributors to club competitive ranks through the years but they have also, at times, come and gone. Surf races and craft events likewise have had their moments. But through it all, our boat area has always been there. At the very least it always survives for another season. At best it prospers and inspires. In all the years I have known them, our boat area is well organised and trains hard. I congratulate you all on an earnest year and look forward to the next.

The strange thing about these championships was that as some were finishing their competitions, other areas were just starting. R&R was such a discipline. Our under 15 girls had finished third at the State Titles and arrived in Perth on Friday and spent the afternoon with the young paddlers and swimmers watching the finals of the beach events. Then on Saturday as we all watched Jack “the giant killer” Harrison take on the big lads in the flags arena (and what an arena it is), we heard our first faint rumblings of results in the R&R. Our young team members all get on well together. They all take an interest in what happens all over the beach. As the results came through our young members were excitedly passing the txt messages on to team management. The under 15 girls had just done their best run through for the season to take the silver medal. I am sure this team must have been a bit nervous. They had seen the under 15 boys do well in the water and the beach. The bar had been set very high for them. Ruby Cuthbert, Tia Haes, Estelle Davies, Jess Griffith and Georgia Murphy put it all together on the day with a loss of just three points and only one point from gold. This was their best hit out of the year. What a time to do it.

A huge thank you to the following people:
·         Michael Cantarella for looking after a large number of young people all over the beach.

·         Sarah and Paul Thornton for doing likewise and being all over the beach doing it. The restaurant management send Paul their very best wishes.

·         Our IRB guys, Brad Allen, Sigi Dobry, Phil Guiney, who seemed to enjoy the week very much and did a wonderful job with water safety. Andrew Tooher for also driving a bus.

·         Our officials’ without who we cannot be there.

·         Chris and Jess Gately for officiating, training and looking after their team.

·         All the parents who attended and who also assist to manage their own and other people’s children. We know it costs you a large amount of money but we cannot do it without you. I assume you get as much joy out of it as everyone else.

·         Mark Harrison who did most of the team management and was also the best ever beach captain.

·         Each and every competitor who travelled to Perth and did their very best during the week. As Jeff Fenech would say, ” I luv youse all!”


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