Australian team members Ali Day, Shannon Eckstein and Zane Holmes (far right) compete in the KNG Ironman Series at Bondi (Photo: Mark Donaldson/mdphoto.com.au)
Shannon Eckstein and Zane Holmes headline an imposing Australian Surf Life Saving team intent on defending their title at the 2011 International Surf Rescue Challenge in New Zealand from 31 January to 4 February 2011.
Fresh from claiming the World Ironman Title at Rescue 2010 in Egypt, Eckstein will lead an Australian team that welcomes back high-profile stars Holmes, Hugh Dougherty, Alicia Marriott and Liz Pluimers to international competition.
Eckstein was pleased to see the return of some of the sports biggest names and believes the squad’s combination of youth and experience will be pivotal in Australia’s efforts to retain the International Surf Rescue crown they claimed in South Africa in 2009.
“Zane and Hugh are two of the most consistent and versatile competitors in the world, so to have their experience and talent in the squad is hugely beneficial. Likewise with Alicia and Liz, their early season form has been sensational and they’ll be an integral part of our team.
“It’s also great to see the likes of Ali Day and Dev Lahey stepping up to the open team; it proves that we have a talented crop of youngsters coming through. Ali’s probably the best young Ironman in the country and I think this international experience will be great for him.
“On paper it’s a formidable looking team and one that will be hard to beat in New Zealand,” summed up Eckstein, who recently took out Round One of the KNG Ironman Series.
The 2011 International Surf Rescue Challenge will be contested by the best surf sports athletes from around the world, with teams from the USA, Japan, South Africa, Great Britain joining Australian and New Zealand on the beaches of Mount Maunganui. Eckstein rates the New Zealand team as the major threat to Australia’s title defence.
“We just managed to beat New Zealand at the World Lifesaving Championships in Egypt recently, so they’d be pretty keen to get one back on us. They’ll also be celebrating their Centenary of Surf Life Saving, so that combined with a home beach advantage, will be a huge incentive for them to beat us.”
Selection in the Australian team was just reward for Pluimers, who has started off the season in impressive fashion, winning Round One of the Ironwomen Series and finishing third in the 2010 Coolangatta Gold. Pluimers was confident of producing similar displays in New Zealand.
“Making an Australian team is something that everyone wants to achieve so it’s a good feeling to be in the squad. I’ve been really happy with my performances so far this year and I think between now and then – with a few more races under my belt – I can only get better,” said the 24 year old from Northcliffe.
Selectors have also named an exciting team to contest the Under 21 International Surf Rescue Challenge, led by Collaroy youngster Kendrick Louis and featuring Ironwoman Series stars Bonnie Hancock, Amy Nurthen and Harriet Brown.
The final pieces of the Australian team puzzle will be finalised this weekend, when the nation’s top Surf Boat rowers contest the National Selection Regatta at Stockton Beach, Newcastle. An open crew and an under 23 crew will be chosen from this event to represent Australia.
Australian Surf Life Saving Team
Shannon Eckstein (Northcliffe) – Captain
Zane Holmes (Northcliffe)
Hugh Dougherty (Tugun)
Alastair Day (Warilla Barrick Point)
Dev Lahey (Northcliffe)
Thomas Nolan (North Cottesloe)
Kristyl Smith (Northcliffe)
Naomi Flood (Manly)
Elizabeth Pluimers (Northcliffe)
Alicia Marriott (Mooloolaba)
Miranda Bell (Maroochydore)
Laura Shorter (Queenscliff)
Boat crew: Whale Beach – Howard Christie, William Phillips, Matthew Chave, Justin Webb, Brent Babicci
Coach: Brett Dowker (Currumbin)
Manager: Michael Bate (Freshwater)
Physio: Troy Eady
Australian Under 21 Surf Life Saving Team
Kendrick Louis (Collaroy) – Captain
Kyle O’Brien (Cronulla)
Tim Schofield (Terrigal)
Michael Booth (Northcliffe)
Scott Smith (Warilla Barrick Point)
Ben Mispelhorn (Kurrawa)
Bonnie Hancock (Northcliffe)
Amy Nurthen (Terrigal)
Harriet Brown (Northcliffe)
Alisha Miller (Freshwater)
Devon Halligan (Manly)
Hayley Wyper (North Burleigh)
Boat crew: Dee Why – Steve Scott, Jack Stillman, Eric Rowe, Jay Yeomans, Jason Rowe
Coach: Barry Newman (Northcliffe)
Manager: Keith Caldwell (Bulli)
Physio: Nick Marshall
2011 International Surf Rescue Challenge
Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
January 31 – February 4, 2011
Amy Nurthen leads Bonnie Hancock during KNG Round 2 at Bondi, both will form an integral part of the U21 Australian team (Photo: Mark Donaldson/mdphoto.com.au)