Team full of region's top talent
Marlborough will have a strong influence on and off the water at the World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro from October 30 to November 7.
Competitors Fiona Paterson, Tarsha Williams, Louise Trappitt, Duncan Grant, Hamish Burson, Ian Seymour and Sean O'Neill are from the Wairau club, while Joseph Sullivan hails from the Picton club.
Rebecca Scown, Linda Matthews, Robyn Munro, Louise Ayling, Ben Hammond, Chris Harris and reserve Tufi Sele all row out of the Central Region Performance Centre based at Wairau and head coach of that organisation, Mark Stallard, is co-coach of the men's eight.
Former Wairau coach John Robinson has two crews, the World Cup series-winning women's pair of Scown and Juliette Haigh and the men's lightweight coxless pair of James Lassche and Graham Oberlin-Brown.
The team is one of the largest selected by New Zealand for a world championship regatta with 18 boats and 55 athletes involved, including a men's and women's eight.
One of the newcomers in the squad is Robbie Manson from Wairau. The 2009 world under-23 double sculls champion finished out of the medals at this year's under-23 event with his brother, Karl Manson, but is confident the premier quad he is stroking will have a serious crack at gold.
Speaking from the New Zealand team headquarters at Lake Karapiro yesterday, Manson said he wasn't surprised at his elevation to the elite squad, given his impressive training and trial times, winning every seat race he contested.
"I sort of expected to make the squad, but was very glad when I did. Pretty cool step up, especially at home on Lake Karapiro."
While Manson is only 20, the rest of the quad has plenty of experience, with Olympic Games pairs bronze medallist Nathan Twaddle, Matthew Trott and John Storey in the boat coached by Mike Rodger.
Manson said he is enjoying the stroke seat where he sets the pace and rhythm.
"There is a ton of experience around me, but a ton of work to be done. Now the long rows and heavy weights start.
"I'm absolutely buggered at the moment."
Manson said that while the boat was well off the pace at the most recent World Cup regatta in Switzerland, he was confident they could make the A final and from there anything can happen.
O'Neill has realised his dream of rowing for New Zealand at a world championships, although not in the boat he hoped to make.
He won a silver medal in the four at the last World Cup regatta at Lake Lucerne, but was moved into the eight after a very even series of seat trials.
O'Neill, who rowed for Ireland at the Beijing Olympics, is looking forward to rowing in the eight.
"Disappointed not getting in the four but still happy to be in the team. I think it was the toss of a coin at the end of the day. I intend to make the most of the opportunity.
"It was always my goal to row for New Zealand, and to do it, it's quite cool to get there."
Seymour is the other Wairau rower in the eight, while Burson made the coxed four.
Sullivan is upbeat about his chances of a medal with Cohen. The former world under-23 single and double sculls champion said their bronze medal in Lucerne was a sign they were improving.
"We are confident we have got it together. Definitely aiming for gold. We didn't taper for the World Cups. Still got a lot more to come. Everyone up here is really keen to give it a good push."
Robinson has been coaching New Zealand elite crews now for nearly 10 years and he likes what he sees in this current squad, although he said some rowers have been selected with an eye to the future.
"Probably looking to blood some people and with some, the expectations aren't too high. It's not costing too much and it's giving young rowers a chance to perform at the elite level."
Robinson said the step up from under-23 to elite level was massive, likening it to the Junior All Blacks versus the All Blacks in rugby terms.
He feels the men's and women's eights have a big ask with such inexperienced crews, but should perform creditably. Williams and Trappitt are in the women's eight.
Robinson said Sullivan is a great competitor and, like Cohen, a terrific racer and definite medal chance.
Overall, Robinson is happy with the New Zealand team. "The depth is great. It's as good as I've seen it in my time here."
He suggested the best gold medal chances were with Mahe Drysdale in the single scull, his pair and the men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.
Wairau's Duncan Grant is another definite gold medal prospect being the defending champion, although his recent form in Europe was disappointing.
The Marlborough Express