Portsea Competition Team Enters 21 Athletes at Aussies

After a solid season of training and competing, the Portsea Competition Team consolidated its position as a new force to be reckoned with on the aquatic sports arena.  The resurgence started small, seven years ago, with our current president Matt Mahon, heading up a Junior (nipper) Competition Team, and heading to the LSV Victorian Junior Championships.  In the years that have followed, those juniors have grown up, and members of that original cohort are still competing and successfully representing themselves, their club and their state, at lifesaving competitions.  The team has grown along the way, both with athletes feeding in at the bottom end, and drawing new athletes into the team from our pool of older existing members.

Prior to covid 19 event cancellations, this past week, Portsea would have seen 21 athletes competing at the Youth Aussies, then Masters’ Aussies, followed by the Senior Aussies.

First up, in our Youth Team, we had ten of our club’s most talented ocean swimmers, paddlers and runners teaming up to travel to North Burleigh beach for the U14 and U15 National Championships.

The youth women’s team of Frankie Dever, Mackie Hunter, Hannah Saadie and Gemma Woolrich had already proved themselves as the top Youth Women’s Surf Swimming team in Victoria. Team events are raced as a combined Youth U14/15 team.  Our Portsea girls are bottom age, all being in the U14 age bracket, yet were pennant winners in the U14/15 Surf Team event at the Mordialloc Carnival, and would have gone into the Victorian State Championships as hot favourites.  Unfortunately the Vic Life Saving Champs also fell victim to covid 19.  These four girls all race in pool swimming competitions, with Hannah and Mackie swimming national qualifying times in the pool – sadly pool swimming nationals were also cancelled.  Their preparation also included ocean swim events; Gemma travelled to Perth for the Rottnest Swim, Mackie raced in the Lorne Pier to Pub and Hannah at the Brighton Open Water Swim.  All four girls raced in the Portsea Swim Classic placing 3rd, 9th, 12th and 13th in the U18 Women’s Age group – truly a great effort by these girls – that has seen them nominated for a Team Sports Award at the upcoming LSV Awards of Excellence.

The youth men’s team of Ned Betts, Flynn Deacon, Charlie Deacon, Harvey Larke, Luke Tucker and Xavier Purcell were also heading north to Youth Aussies for a second year.  As often happens in junior sport, athletes grow and can show huge improvements in a short period of time.  Harvey was one such athlete and his achievements this season have also earnt him a nomination for an LSV Sports award.  Harvey has gone through the season undefeated in his swims at all Victorian lifesaving events that he has competed in. In addition, he qualified for 10 events at the national pool swimming champs, and won the U18 division at the Portsea Swim Classic and was 4th in the U18 division of the Lorne Pier to Pub.  Xavier has also improved with his swimming this year, winning all the surf swims at the Victorian State team trial events and earning himself selection in the Victorian team that competed on the Sunshine Coast on the Australia Day long weekend.  Together with Luke, Charlie and Ned, our Youth Men’s Surf Team was a genuine chance for a medal at the Aussies and was hoping to make the final in the Cameron Relay.

Following on from Youth Aussies, was Masters Aussies, where Portsea’s John Vains would have been flying our red and white flag.  A Blairgowrie local, John is a familiar sight at the Portsea back beach, training on his board or ski, or stepping in to help coach our youth athletes.  We hope to further develop our Aussies Masters’ Team next year so anyone over the age of 30 would be welcome to come and join the team.

Next up would have been our U17 year olds.  All five of the athletes in this age group were returning competitors, as all had been to an Aussies before and had loved the experience enough to make them want to come back for more.  For the first time in over a decade, we would have had athletes on the beach at Broadbeach, racing in our famous striped cap in the senior age group events.  Our four U17 women, Sophie Courtney, Chloe Dowling, Steph Hunter and Georgie Kerr were entered in Taplin, Belt Race, Rescue Tube Rescue Race, Surf Teams Races, plus a host of other individual events.

They would have been joined by Tom Regan competing in the U17 men’s events.  Tom has enormous experience on the national stage, having won a silver medal at Aussies last year and having raced with the Victorian State Team earlier this season, where he won a Bronze Medal in the U19 Surf Race at the Interstate Championships.

Last but not least we had an Open Women’s Surf Boat crew entered to race, the team comprising of Steve Blewett (sweep), Alex Hagan, Jacqui Hart, Emily von Moger and Amanda Rukuwai Donnelly. This crew had put in a solid pre-season of training and had shown some promising results locally, racing in their new “Portsea Estate” sponsored surf boat.

With the disappointment of event cancellations behind us, we are already looking to the future.  Our newly formed “Portsea Competition Executive Team” has held the first of their virtual meetings and is planning a way out and ahead.  We are focusing on our joint plans to consolidate processes, budgets and transition across our Junior and Senior Competition Teams, aimed at greater collaboration and stream lining as we move into the 20/21 season.  Our junior team will continue to focus on a local Victorian representation while our Youth/Senior Team will be looking to promote a presence on the Victorian competition scene plus the Nationals.  In addition we will have a number of athletes vying for state team representation and racing in open water ocean events.

Our Competition Team is not all about racing.  Friendships, personal development, surf skill development, fitness and leadership opportunities are all on offer.  Our parents, managers, coaches and officials all have a role to play and reap the rewards of being part of our developing team.  We look forward to the year ahead and welcome anyone wanting to jump on board and be a part of next season’s team.