The ultimate tests of clubs’ strength in depth, the Taplin and Lifesaver relays invariably produce thrilling finishes and at Aussies 2016 it was all about Newport, which claimed the Lifesaver and men’s and women’s Taplin crowns.
The Sydney Northern Beaches powerhouse, led by ski paddlers Luke Morrison and Mitchell Trim, has beaten out Redhead for the past two Aussies Open Men’s Taplin Relay gold medals, and the clubs are likely to feature in the final again.
Manly, bolstered this year by the inclusion of Ironman Kendrick Louis and board paddler Stewart McLachlan, won the NSW championship and the three New South Wales clubs will mount a strong challenge. Northcliffe has failed to win a medal in the past two Aussies Taplin finals and, led by the Eckstein brothers, Shannon and Caine, they will be looking to make amends this year.
Northcliffe finished ahead of the Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park and Currumbin in the Queensland championship and all three clubs will have gold in their sights, as will the Ali Day-led Surfers Paradise team that has been in the mix in the past two years. In the Open Women’s Taplin relay, small Central Coast club Umina will be out to slay the giants of the sport.
The Umina team of Aussies 2016 Competitor of the Carnival Jemma Smith, Jazmyn Rodwell and Rachel Wood upstaged defending Australian champions Newport at the NSW championships and have a great chance to repeat the effort at North Kirra where they will also be up against strong teams from Manly, Currumbin, Northcliffe, Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park and North Burleigh.
Powerful swimmer Prue Davies and the Nurthen sisters, Amy and Karlee, struck gold for the Currumbin Vikings at the Queensland championships, beating Northcliffe’s classy combination of Harriet Brown, Courtney Hancock and Danielle McKenzie.
Meanwhile Newport will be out to defend its Lifesaver relay title, boasting two strong chances after its B team defeated the A team at the NSW championships. Currumbin also had two teams in the top three at the Queensland titles, but they finished behind Maroochydore, who will be out to make up for missing a medal after being disqualified in the 2016 final on their home beach.
DID YOU KNOW: North Cronulla won the first two Taplin Relay gold medals in Glenelg in 1974 and Dee Why in 1975. The ’74 team was Mark Steed and Ross Wilcox (swim), the legendary Steve Warren and Ken Watson (board) and the late Brian Trouville and Max Lewis (ski) while in ’75 the team was Mark and Garry Steed (swim), Warren and Ian Wallace (board) and Trouville and the late Alan Coates (ski).