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On course for another Morse

Waikanae have their sights set firmly on a fourth straight top club honour at the Gisborne senior championships that start tomorrow with craft events at Midway Beach.

Based on their performance in the Champion of the Bays carnival at Ohope last weekend, when they finished second to Mount Maunganui, Waikanae will be extremely difficult to stop.

At stake in the senior champs is the coveted Ralph Morse Memorial Shield for interclub supremacy.

Midway held it for 16 years in a row up to 2016 when Waikanae grabbed it off them by just eight points, and the club and gold caps have held on to it since.

The margins of victory since then have been telling.

In 2017, Waikanae retained the trophy with 454 points to Midway’s 260.

Last year, the margin was 380 to 199 in Waikanae’s favour.

Wainui have been a gallant third over most of the previous 50-plus years the trophy has been contested although there were a couple of years back in the 1980s when they finished runners-up.

The championships are being run in three stages this year.

The double skis, canoes and IRBs kick off things tomorrow from 9am.

Rescue events are on February 5 and the remaining events are on February 6.

This year’s champs promise to be a more even contest between Waikanae and Midway.

Both clubs have young surf athletes on the rise, as does Wainui.

“These should be tighter championships and I feel good about that,” said Waikanae head coach Cory Hutchings.

“It should mean a lot for the athletes to compete for their clubs locally . . . like in the old days when winning the local championships really mattered.”

Hutchings said Midway and Wainui had young athletes leading a new charge for their clubs . . . “as we do at Waikanae, and all that bodes well for a hard-fought championship”.

Waikanae’s canoe teams performed exceptionally in the Champion of the Bays at Ohope last weekend.

Their under-19 men were unbeaten and the u19 women were also to the fore.

They are expected to dominate the men’s and women’s canoe events tomorrow while their skilful and fit kayak contingent are also strong prospects in the double ski.

Waikanae are likely to carry a hefty points score forward to the next phase of the champs.

“We are pretty thin on the ground when it comes to canoes but we should have some useful double ski combinations,” said Midway head coach Matt Sutton.

“One of those combinations are Alex Bermingham and Annabell Higgins in the under-19 girls. They did bloody well at Ohope to win the double ski.

“Will Pittar will team with Callum Torrie in the u19 men’s event, and they should be a good combination, too.”

Sutton feels Midway are not yet ready to win back the No.1 club mantle.

“We’ve still got work to do. We are still rebuilding but I believe you will see a change in the coming years, and not too far away. That being said, we have some exciting young kids in our club and they will be out to perform the best they can.

“All three Gisborne clubs are starting to want it more.”

Wainui head coach Dion Williams said their focus at the Gisborne champs was the swim and board events next month.

“That’s where we hope to score good points.”

CHASING POINTS: Waikanae can be expected to collect a bucketload of of points from the canoe and double ski events that start the Gisborne senior surf lifesaving championships at Midway Beach tomorrow. Pictured in action at the national championships in Gisborne last year are Waikanae open men’s crew (from left) James Blackburne, Alex Bristowe, Zach Ferkins and Quaid Thompson. File picture