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2011 DHL Aussies: Surf boat glory up for grabs

Welcome to the first of our Countdown to the 2011 DHL Aussies as we preview the major events and look back on past glories. In our first edition, Ian Hanson looks at what we can expect in the boat area which always provides plenty of thrills and spills.

Surf boat glory up for grabs

The battle for surf boat supremacy at the 2011 DHL Aussies (April 2-10) has taken on a whole new meaning with the retirement of the majority of the crew that has made up the “invincibles” from North Cottesloe.

The business end of the Championship season is about to get under way with the countdown on to this year’s 2011 DHL Australian Surf Life Saving Championships from April 2-10 at Kurrawa Beach.

And already there have been some blistering results from the boat area.

The Jack Alliss J crew from North Cottesloe has won gold at the last four Australian Surf Life Saving Championships between 2006 and 2009.

However, the first club in the history to win four Australian open gold medals in succession decided to disband at the end of the 2010 season – satisfied to have earned their little slice of surf boat history.

Now the challengers who have tried and failed to upset the J crew are preparing to tackle the unpredictable elements that only Kurrawa can throw at them with the almost certain likelyhood of a new king being crowned.

Over the next eight weeks crews from around Australia will contest their various Branch and State Championships as well as the Battle of the Boats in NSW and the Aussie Bum Series in Queensland.

If the recent Australian Surf Rowers League championships at Wollongong is any indication, then the challengers certainly mean business.

Victory in the open men’s went to Bilgola Gold, from the Sydney Northern Beaches, swept by the incomparable Don McManus and his crew of Anthony O'Toole (stroke) Jarrad King (second stroke), Mitch Foran (second bow) and Brendan Murray (bow).

Success at the Aussies is nothing new to the McManus – with open men’s and under 18 victories in 1997 and open women’s gold in 2004 and 2005.

Bilgola came over the top of the field to win from Austinmer Blue, swept  by Jack Patison and a club that had tasted victory at the Aussies in 2003 and the Neil Innes swept crew from Bateman’s Bay, the quiet achievers of the surf boat fraternity who tasted under 18 gold under the guidance of Innes in 1998.

But it was two of the inform crews of the season so far – Australian representatives in the Trans Tasman Series in New Zealand, the Whale Beach Bigfish and Currumbin Beach Barbarians, the Queensland representatives in the Cyclones successful Inter-State Championship win at Queenscliff, who were left to lament what might have been.

Whale Beach, who protested after the first start and earned a re-call and after leading in the re-run were overtaken by the eventual placegetters.

Fresh from representing Australia, Whale Beach will be out for that elusive Aussies gold medal. Photo:

Currumbin on the other hand – unbeaten in seven of the preliminary rounds and in most keen judge’s view, very much the crew to beat, were swamped at the second start – their title hopes shot.

Bigfish sweep Howard Christie has tasted Aussies gold before as a rower when he was part of the Ross Jorgensen Bungan Beach crews that won gold in 1985 and 1986 as has Vikings sweep Lyle Clark, who steered Palm Beach (NSW) to victory in 2000 and Tallebudgera Women in 2002 .

Christie’s men went close in 2008, winning bronze behind the J crew from North Cottesloe and Coogee while Currumbin have been knocking on the door for the past five years.

They finished second to the J crew in 2006 and 2007 before becoming the first crew across the line ahead of the J Crew in the 2009 final, only to have the gold taken from them when one of their rowers returned a positive drug test.

Clark says his crew, is as determined as ever to pocket the elusive little green box, that houses Aussie gold.

“We certainly had no luck in that final in Wollongong after rowing so well all weekend only to be swamped at the second start,” said Clark.

“But the boys know they are rowing faster than anyone else and we will probably rest up a little before planning our strategy in the lead up to the Aussies, where we will contest  both the NSW and Queensland Championships.

“There is no doubt we are hungry for that Aussies gold.”

Throw in crews from Mooloolaba, Southport, Mona Vale, Tugun, Northcliffe and the men’s open surf boat title at 2011 DHL Aussies is very much up for grabs.

The crew from Mooloolaba will be one to watch out for in 2011. Photo:

In the open women’s it could very well be shaping up as the year of the Avoca Beach Zeniths – one of the most feared crews in the business – after their ASRL win over Mooloolaba and Fairhaven in Wollongong.

Avoca sweep Richard Brierty, who steered the Zeniths to Australian championship gold in 2006 and 2007 remains at the helm of a crew that could well be heading for a swansong in 2011 after long and illustrious careers.

Rowena Bull, who won gold with Bilgola in 2004 and 2005, is now firmly entrenched in the crew, as is former Ironwoman Kate MacNamara who joined one of women surf boat rowing’s finest in Mel McPherson, who has won all four National titles with Bilgola and Avoca, along with two-time golden girl Julie Mitchell.

One crew that knows they are capable of matching in with the Zenith’s is Chris Fleming’s South Curl Curl girls who were bundled out in a controversial semi- final series after the initial race was called back with Flemming’s crew well in front but they then missed out on the final.

The surf boats always provide thrilling action at the Aussies, as the crew from Newport demonstrates. Photo:

Honour Roll since 2000

Surf Boats Open Men

2000-01: Kurrawa (D.Griffith(s), P.Mackie, R.McPhillips, M.Richards, A.Wilson)
2001-02: Tugun  (B.Zillman(s), D.Cotterill, R.McPhillips, D.Tranter, G.Finter)
2002-03: Austinmer (J.Patison(s), S.Drysdale, A.Prentice, A.Greenhalgh, S.James)
2003-04: Mooloolaba (S.Davies(s), D.Dwyer, L.Smith, J.Baunach, G.Cooper)
2004-05: Avoca Beach (R.Brierty(s), B.Meredith, B.Shine, B.Cox, G.Ruzek)
2005-06: North Cottesloe (J.Alliss(s), J.Fievez, D.Porzig, P.Charles, K.Greville)
2006-07: North Cottesloe (J.Alliss(s), P.Charles, K.Greville, D.Porzig, S.Coulton)
2007-08: North Cottesloe (J.Alliss(s), P.Charles, K.Greville, D.Knox, D.Porzig)
2008-09: North Cottesloe (J.Alliss(s), P.Charles, D.Porzig, K.Greville, D.Knox)
2009-10: Not held

Surf Boats Women

2000-01: Tallebudgera (M.Fletcher(s), K.Clarke, N.Ford, C.Burness, D.Malhstedt)
2001-02: Tallebudgera (L.Clark(s), K.Shepard, R.Mockeridge, E.Dickson, V.Hull)
2002-03: Kurrawa (M.Fletcher(s),Mahlstedt, N.Dickson, K.Clarke, C.Burness)
2003-04: Bilgola (D.McManus(s),R.Bull, N.Gartner, M.Macpherson, L.Raymond)
2004-05: Bilgola (D.McManus(s),M.MacPherson, N.Gartner, S.MacReady, R.Bull
2005-06: Avoca Beach (R.Brierty(s), M.Macpherson J.Mitchell J.Brierty S.Brierty
2006-07: Avoca Beach (R.Brierty(S), J.Brierty, S.Brierty, M.Macpherson, J.Mitchell)
2007-08: South Curl Curl (C.Flemming(S),A.Chaffey, E.Gillis,.Mortimer, L.Raymond)
2008-09: Mooloolaba (B.Western(s), M.Millsom, S.Campell, H.Fairfax, S.Beaumont)
2009-10: Not held

The Austinmer crew took out the 2002/3 Aussies. Photo:

For more information on the 2011 DHL Aussies, please visit