Another battle royal expected
One point decided the Gisborne Surf Lifesaving Championships last year. Another battle royal can be expected this afternoon and tomorrow.
Last summer, Midway dramatically picked up their game from the year before and severely threatened Waikanae's grip on the Ralph Morse Memorial Shield.
Waikanae broke Midway's 16-year hold on the Shield in 2016 and this weekend are bidding for their sixth win in a row. But the fifth almost didn't happen.
In 2018 Kaiaponi Farms Waikanae blitzed the event to win by 244 points, ahead of Dawson Building Midway and then Riversun Wainui.
But last year all three Gisborne clubs contributed to the most intense “locals” for years.
Waikanae sneaked home by a point. They had 290 points, Midway had 289 and Wainui had one of their best scores — 98.
About 130 competitors will take part over the two days. Events will be held at Midway Beach, starting at 4pm today and continuing from 8am tomorrow until they are finished, possibly in the late afternoon.
Among those competing will be athletes from as far afield as Hotwater Beach on the Coromandel, Paekakariki, Waihi and Whakatane.
“Last year's result was a bit of a surprise, definitely, and it's evident that Midway have rebuilt pretty well,” Waikanae head coach Cory Hutchings said.
“I would say going into this weekend they would be the favourites, given the numbers they have in the junior ranks compared with Waikanae.
“However, we are up for the challenge. We have a lot of kids racing as well and they are really motivated to turn up and put their best foot forward.
“It'll definitely be close, and if Midway are to take it we will make them fight hard for it.”
Hutchings said under-17 competitor Lachie Falloon would be going around the cans more than 30 times, racing all the open events as well.
“That's the kind of commitment that is most pleasing,” Hutchings said.
“Kids like him are putting their hand up.
“The likes of Georgie Pitkethley, Briana Irving, Christy Tate, Quaid Thompson, and Nathan Proctor will be right amongst it too.”
Midway head coach Matt Sutton says his club has “a great group of guys and girls”.
“But we're not focused on actually winning the Ralph Morse Shield,” he said.
“What we will be focused on is the continued development of that great group of young people.”
Sutton believes Waikanae should still be overwhelming favourites to take out the overall championship title.
“With the group of athletes they've still got, they would be expecting to win.”
Matt Scott and Chris Dawson will compete for Midway this weekend.
“It's going to be great to have them competing among our young athletes.
“We use this weekend to build club culture, and I'm sure we will get some really good results.
“But for us the Shield is not the be-all and end-all reason to turn up for the champs.”
Sutton expects the club's senior brigade to lead from the front.
“Our younger athletes — like Sophie Petro in the under-15s — are coming along really well; the likes of Jack Lepper and Tyron Evans too.
“Jacob Corrin in the under-19s has transitioned well from being a swimmer to a competitive ski paddler.”
Wainui head coach Dion Williams said he was expecting his small team of 15 to do well in their events.
“Ava Smith would be a potential star in the under-19 women's board and swim events, along with her mate Hannah King, who will also do ski and ironwoman.
“Jonty Evans would be a contender in the under-17 men's events he competes in, along with Hue Cowie in the under-17 board.
“Imogen Amor-Bendall should do well in the under-17 swims, as should Jay Ryan in the under-17 board races.”