The Fernandez report: State Titles


March 8th, 2012 saw Coogee’s Masters of the Universe decend upon Kingscliff, only to find no beach. The king tides created havoc in recent months and pushed our runners to the south end, whilst our aquatic stars were forced 2km north. Self-proclaimed amphibious athletes like the Hoff (Ian Keller) would find himself at both arenas.

The results were simply fantastic with Coogee finishing second in the overall Masters point score, a magnificent effort despite the carnival ending prematurely - to the disappointment of many.

Things got off to a great start when Allison Roberts ski paddled herself to a silver medal in a tightly contested 45-49 year group. Former elite Ironman, Cameron Habler, back after 10 years hibernation, looked like he never got off his ski with a silver medal in the 35-39 age category. Another elite Ironman returning to Coogee was Larn Darragh, who tore the field apart in the 35-39 board race, skillfully taking the gold medal. Larn backed up with another gold in the surf race with Matt Fernandez third, Cameron fourth, and Matt Fogarty not far behind with a top 10 finish. Later in the day Cameron took out silver in the Ironman. Along with Larn, he reminisced about their Uncle Toby’s glory days and in the process secured silver in the double ski. A great day for the guys in this age group!

Chris ‘Hips’ Gately continued last seasons’ excellent results, winning the 45-49 years surf race. However, with the tide rapidly receding after lunch, Hips was visibly disturbed by the amount of running and wading required in the 110 years Taplin relay. Choosing the rip on the way out, Hips was left with no alternative but to sprint home Usain Bolt-style on a long bank. Kingscliff residents could hear and feel Hips’ lungs craving oxygen as he crossed the line totally exhausted, narrowly missing the bronze medal in a most exciting race.

Todd Mison – arguably the fastest man off the beach in the 45-49 age group, managed 5th in his surf race but went on to bigger things, replacing a fatigued Hips in the 110 year surf teams with Matt and Larn. Hips' withdrawal saw Coogee's odds on Sports Bet go from $1.50 favorites to $2.95, but Todd went on to swim the race of his career, helping the boys take gold in a race that saw more wading that swimming!

Unfortunately, Larn fell victim to the long bank, tearing his calf. Courageously, he hobbled, in pain, over the line. Any sympathy points he gained for his efforts were quickly erased as the carnival was stopped when he called for the Medicab, a pair of crutches, an MRI referral and a pack of Voltaren (25mg) before he would exit the arena.

A chiseled Craig Bennett aka CB (advised earlier in the week by his boys not to paddle the board) backed himself anyway, paddling in the final only to tear his calf as he got off his board - prematurely ending his carnival. Thinking he only had to compress, elevate and ice his calf for the afternoon, CB spent the next few hours weathering verbal sprays from all angles, including his kids, friends of his kids, his peers, carnival officials, medical staff and the general public. To his credit, he took it well!

Carolyn Martin, who battled insomnia after she found herself entered in the wrong age group earlier in the week, came in 7th in her 45-49 year surf race. Unfortunately for Carolyn, her favorite tube event was cancelled due to time constraints, which left her visibly wounded. Philomena (aka Phil) Pettit (broke after spending thousands at the physio strapping her shoulder blades) had a busy day at the office winning silver in the 50-54 years tube and surf race. Sarah Bellenger in her first-ever State titles managed to put her exciting romantic novel down and performed well in her board race. Sarah also placed 4th in the board relay with Allison and Phil. Kylie Mison, trapped in Sydney’s pouring rain, could not get to the beach on time for her surf race, but had enough energy to take silver in the 110 surf teams with Phil and Nicola Logan. Kylie’s son Tom was so proud of mummy he threw his lunch up (believed to be sausage) all over her in a packed Coogee tent.

At the South end things were under control with Nicola producing gold in the 30-34 years sprint. So impressive was the ‘explosive' Logan, she was recruited as part of the U/19’s belt teams the next day - only to trip spectacularly over her own two feet, in front of thousands of spectators and the carnival commentator, who didn't miss the stumble either. Despite some bruising and an Oscar nomination, she was ok!

Overall, the ladies had a great day on the sand with Linda Walsh equal 2nd in the 40-44 sprint and Sharon Deans close behind in 4th. Both ladies joined Nicola and Helen Begg to take silver in the 140 years relay. In the 170 years relay Allison replaced Nicola in the team, which took a silver. Wearing his full length skins, team manager Waz Everingham was buzzing with excitement and was seen cracking a smile in the nearby grandstand, cigar in hand. In the flags arena the girls flexed their guns and after all the push and shove, Helen took silver and Allison bronze, while Linda and Sharon were 3rd and 4th respectively in their age groups.

Over to the men’s and the lean-mean-2km-machine Roger Moresi (3rd) and Rob Gibellini (5th) were great in 40-44 year group, powering their way through the 'cross country’ course, while the Knight Rider Conor 'Cooper' Croke took silver in the 30-34 years 2km run. The versatile Hoff placed 4th in the same event...and you guessed -strained his calf in the process! All 4 combined in the 'dash for cash' relay, holding the baton and picking up the bronze. Well done guys! Soon after the Hoff tweeted his retirement from all domestic and international competition, effective immediately.

Special mention must go to our oldest competitors John Ward (73) and Kenny Winters (80) who led by example, showing the Masters how it’s done...remaining injury free! Apparently, the pair follow a thorough plyometric/ballistic stretching routine, something the Masters athletes may one day incorporate into their own programs.

Overall, Coogee can be proud of its Masters competitors, who have worked very hard for their results. No doubt more medals would've come our way had our specialist tube swimmers been given a chance to compete. Finally, special thanks to Dave Habler who eased some of our competitors fears in the craft area, giving them valuable advice and confidence in tricky surf conditions.


~ Matt Fernandez


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