Nippers in search of glory
THIS weekend is all about our junior surf lifesavers, or nippers as they are more commonly known, as the Moore Park club hosts the Wide Bay Capricorn Branch Junior Life Saving Championships on Saturday and Sunday.
About 400 nippers from across the eight clubs within the branch, from Yeppoon in the north to Hervey Bay in the south, will compete in age groups from under-8 to under-14.
For the U-8 to U-10 age groups this will be their grand final for the 2011-12 season, because this is the highest level at which they get to compete.
But for the U-11 to U-14 age groups, this weekend will be a vital stepping stone towards their major goal of attending the Queensland Junior Championships at Maroochydore from March 9-11, and important qualification spots will be up for grabs.
There will also be plenty of silverware up for grabs this weekend, with five trophies to be won by clubs across the two days of competition.
Last year, Tannum Sands scooped the pool by winning all five trophies - Overall Pointscore, Handicapped Pointscore, Junior Trophy, Beach Trophy and Water Trophy.
The club will no doubt be the favourite again this year, although the local clubs, with home-town advantage, can be expected to field larger and stronger teams than they did when having to travel last year.
Leading the way for the local clubs will be the powerful Bundaberg team, which will comprise 69 competitors, the second-largest team behind Tannum Sands (73).
On sheer numbers alone, this should make Bundaberg hard to beat across all categories.
Not to be outdone, other local clubs will also be represented, with Elliott Heads (39), Moore Park (30) and Agnes Water (25) each fielding strong teams.
In particular, it is great to see Agnes Water and Elliott Heads field such large teams, considering both clubs normally have had only about half of those team sizes at previous branch championships.
With so many local juniors competing this weekend, I would expect to see plenty of great results and plenty of medals won by them, but competition will be tough across all age groups and there will certainly be no easy races.
Looking across the nominations from the local clubs, there are a few names that jump out and suggest they have terrific chances of winning a medal, including the Bundaberg U-14 males Jacob O'Shea, Joshua Finnis, Corey Findlay, Zac Swift, Lewis McClure, Lachlan Wood, and Darius Towner. Others should also feature across the individual and the team events.
Other Bundaberg competitors to look out for include Piper Anderson, Charlotte and Ella Cummings, Liam Heads, Tom Martin, Chloe and Lewis McClure, Jarrah McNicol, Tailah O'Shea, Jessica Vaggs, Ben and William Wood, Ky Woods and William Zahn.
Elliott Heads also looks to have several leading hopes, including Riley Batt, Liam Wootton, Jessica Nankivell, Jake Bonus, Jaymee Ericson, Kiah Everingham, Jasmine Dooley, Baylee Holden, Martin Powell, Madison Masterman-Smith and several others.
From Moore Park, we should see the likes of Sandi Davis, Jemma Ballinger, Emily Harvey, Jake Tolvanen, Kiraly Groom, Maddison Giudice and Xavier Doolan be competitive, but I am sure there are plenty of other names I have missed.
The surprise packets of the weekend though could be the Agnes Water competitors.
The club has been doing plenty of training and preparation for the weekend and is sending its largest team to a branch championship, so we should see some medals heading up the road after Sunday.
Competition will start at 8am on Saturday and at 7.45am on Sunday.
Last year Tannum Sands scooped the pool by winning all five trophies