Rowing strength on show
Next week's New Zealand rowing championships at Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel may not have the intensity of last year's pre-Olympic equivalent at Lake Karapiro but they are every bit as important for the country's emerging talent.
For the likes of our own Olympic champion Joseph Sullivan, of Picton, and his double scull team-mate Nathan Cohen, of Southland, it's unrealistic to expect them to be at anything like their best after a well deserved, extended post-Olympic break.
The same could be said for New Zealand's other Olympians but it is a chance for them all to get back into competitive racing mode and with the New Zealand trials the following week and the first World Cup regatta in Sydney in March, there's not much time to prepare.
Marlborough once again has a very strong contingent competing from the Wairau, Blenheim and Picton clubs and the Central Region Performance Centre based at Wairau. Included in the Central RPC squad are Olympians Sullivan, Robbie Manson, Sean O'Neill, Louise Trappitt, Fiona Paterson, bronze medallist Rebecca Scown and Louise Ayling plus three-time former world lightweight single sculler Duncan Grant.
Head coach Mark Stallard and his assistants Mark James and Marion Horwell held a squad bonding and crew confirming exercise at a training camp at Lake Rotoiti this week and Stallard is satisfied they are prepared as well as they can be.
Sullivan teams with Robbie Manson to defend their double scull title. Karl Manson and Joe Wright come into the quad with Sullivan and Steve Cottle to defend that title while the coveted Bos Rooster for the elite club coxed four is also a target, with that crew comprising O'Neill, Cottle, Ian Seymour, Grant and coxswain Michael Dessoulavy.
Both the men's and women's eights should mount strong title challenges and with Scown leading the way the women's crews should compete strongly, with a host of national age group representatives among their ranks as well as the three Olympians.
Blenheim club coach Bill Campbell is very excited about his squad's chances and he's hoping that with Karl Manson, Corey McCaffrey and Tom Murray rowing in Blenheim colours for Central, they might be celebrating the club's first Red Coast national elite title since Jeff Herd and Spot Saul won the pairs 62 years ago. Kevin (Mouse) Taylor, a member of the Blenheim club, won a Red Coat as a coxswain of the Wairau women's four in 1972.
Campbell said the developments made over the past five years were starting to pay dividends.
Campbell is taking his under-19 squad to Twizel, his main season focus being the national Maadi Cup secondary schools championships at Lake Karapiro in March.
The under-19 squad comprises Mitch Avery, Connor Irving, Troy Gilmore, Tom Wilson, Isaac van Velthooven, Shaun MacDonald, Harrison Somerville, Zack Andrews and coxswain Trent Burbidge. They will row an eight, four, quad and double at club and under 19 levels.
Blenheim also have a women's novice group competing for the first time since the 1980s when they won a hatful of titles.
Paige Gilmore, Richelle Collier, Karmyn Ingram, Johnny B Taylor, Esme Holdsworth, Stacey Harper and coxswain Gillian Wallace are contesting a variety of events and should feature strongly judging by their success at the recent South Island championships.
Campbell believes his club has a realistic chance of being in 18 finals.
Picton's flag will fly proudly again, headed by Sullivan. The Gaudin brothers, Ryan and Keiran, multiple national title winners from the early 2000s, are out of retirement and along with New Zealand junior rep Mitchell Mackenzie-Mol and Owen O'Brien, should challenge strongly in various events. Coach Dave Bugler also has Queen Charlotte College's Kaine Marsh, Caitlin Harvey and Alan Harvey competing.
Wairau has a small club contingent comprising Chris James, Tyna Williams, Connor Paul, Pete Benny, Hannah Hocquard and Millie Greenslade, coached by Steve Donaldson and Kay Surgenor.
The event this year has attracted 721 crews, up by 89 from last year, with 737 rowers registered to take part. Competition starts on Tuesday, with finals from Thursday afternoon to Saturday.
CENTRAL RPC SQUAD
Duncan Grant, Ian Seymour, Robbie Manson, Sean O'Neill, Steve Cottle, Michael Dessoulavy, Georgia Hammond, Sophie Mackenzie, Fiona Paterson, Louise Trappitt (Wairau), Joseph Sullivan, Ryan Wilson (Picton), Karl Manson, Corey McCaffrey, Tom Murray (Blenheim), Adrian Riepen, Brook Robertson, Scott Green, Robyn Munro (Nelson), Joseph Trappitt, Linda Matthews, Geo Rodie, Jackie Kiddle, Jess Paton, Pippa Loveard, Ruby Tew, Sam Wells, (Star Boating Club), Luke Watts, Rebecca Scown (Union Wanganui), Joe Wright, James Hunter, Tufi Sele, Lauren McAndrew (Wellington), Tom Neyenhuis, Kerri Gowler (Aramaho Wanganui), Louise Ayling (Waihopai).
- The Marlborough Express