A strong Marlborough contingent are on the hunt for national glory at the 2014 Bankstream NZ Rowing Championships which begin on Lake Karapiro tomorrow.
A talented mix of elite athletes from the NZ summer squad; Central RPC members who trained in Marlborough; plus Wairau, Picton and Blenheim club rowers will be all out to pick up national titles and impress the national selectors along the way.
Central RPC head coach Mark Stallard, not a man given to talking up his charges' chances, was in a positive frame of mind on the eve of the champs. He felt his organisation's role was two-fold.
"We would like to win everything, but that's not possible. For us it's just showcasing our athletes and giving them the best chance of getting in the NZ team.
"Along the way we are going to win a few. Without doubt we have got a superb lot of crews here and we've been very pleased with the summer squad and the Blenheim-based crews coming together. It's not often you get the eights crews coming off the water after their first row together with big grins on their faces, and all keen to go out again. Usually we've got to bargain with them to get them back in the boat straight away.
"We've uncovered a couple of wee gems and we know they are going to perform. We're happy with the group we've got. Things are pretty good actually. We are going to be there or thereabouts in everything we do. We are going to have a good nationals."
Stallard described last year's nationals, at Lake Ruataniwha, as "challenging" for the Central squad. "There were some factors there we couldn't control," he explained. "Around athlete retirement and a couple of key injuries we couldn't work around.
"But even though last year was very disappointing from a results-at-nationals point of view there were some real positives to come out of it. We still cleaned up in the under 20 grade, the four and the pair and we got the highest conversion rate into elite and under-23 squads from any region."
There is a more positive vibe this time around and, although Stallard wouldn't single out any crews for special mention, some stand out as definite medal prospects.
The two premier quads, the women's combination of Louise Trappitt, Kerri Gowler, Erin-Monique O'Brien and Linda Mathews and the men's crew comprising James Hunter, Joseph Sullivan and the Manson brothers, Karl and Robbie, will have some stiff competition against predominantly fellow NZ summer squad rivals in what loom as the most competitive premier races at the regatta.
Corey McCaffrey and Tom Murray in the under 22 men's pair and Sophie Mackenzie and Louise Ayling in the lightweight women's double, while all eyes will be on the international pairing of the Manson brothers who will be up against Olympic champion Joseph Sullivan and Joseph Trappitt in the premier double. The Picton club has five rowers outside the RPC squad in action. Keiran and Ryan Gaudin will join forces with Wairau's Chris James and Blenheim's Elliot Harvey to row the senior four and senior quad, buoyed by recent success at the South Island champs in the open quad.
The same four will combine with a Petone quartet to race a senior eight, while the Gaudin brothers will join forces with Joseph Sullivan and fellow Picton club members Steve Cottle plus cox Trent Burbidge to contest the premier coxed four.
One of the most prestigious events at the regatta, the coxed four has the much-prized Boss Rooster at stake, presented to the winners of this club crew-only event. Keiran Gaudin is well aware of the significance of the historic trophy.
"[The Boss Rooster] started in Picton in 1897, on the Edwin Fox, and hasn't been won by a Picton crew since 1935-36 . . . it would be good to bring it home. But we haven't trained in [the four] so we'll just see how we go."
The highly-promising Caitlin Harvey is also competing in Picton colours, rowing in composite senior and club quads.
Wairau will field nine rowers outside those in the RPC squad and are hoping to build on the success gained at the recent South Island champs. Alex Peter, Jess Donald and Portia Barcello all picked up gold medals at Lake Ruataniwha and are in good form.
Wairau coach Dave Williamson also highlighted the efforts of their novice quartet, Brad Newton, Brad Armstrong, Matt Almond and Paul Chambers, who came into the sport through corporate rowing, and have made "huge improvements in the last few months". They are scheduled to race in the novice coxed quad, novice double sculls, novice and club coxed fours.
The Blenheim club's sole representative outside the RPC crews this year is Elliot Harvey who is rowing in composite crews made up from the Central region clubs. He will compete in the senior quad, senior coxless four and senior eight.
Coach Bill Campbell has high hopes for club members Karl Manson and Murray as they strive to gain prized red coats, and rising star Harrison Somerville, all members of the Central RPC.
"The club are looking forward to their reps performing well this year and also further afield in future seasons when Blenheim will have a Boss Rooster crew competing for that coveted trophy at the NZ champs," added Campbell.
Marlborough crews for the NZ Rowing Championships on Lake Karapiro, starting tomorrow: Central RPC (with affiliated clubs): Axel Dickinson (Petone), Brook Robertson (Nelson), Corey McCaffrey (Blenheim), Duncan Grant (Wairau), Erin-Monique O'Brien (Petone), Harrison Somerville (Blenheim), Holly Greenslade (Wairau), Ian Seymour (Wairau), Jackie Kiddle (Star), James Hunter (Wellington), James McAnallen (Petone), Jess Paton (Star), Joe Wright (Wellington), Joseph Sullivan (Picton), Joseph Trappitt (Star), Karl Manson (Blenheim), Kerri Gowler (Aramaho Wanganui), Lauren McAndrew (Wellington), Linda Mathews (Star), Louise Ayling (Waihopai), Louise Trappitt (Wairau), Michael Dessoulavy (Wairau), Mitchell Mackenzie-Mol (Picton), Nadja Hyson (Wairau), Rebecca Scown (Union Wanganui), Robbie Manson (Wairau), Ruby Tew (Star), Ryan Wilson (Picton), Sophie Mackenzie (Wairau), Tom Murray (Blenheim), Troy O'Reilly (Petone), Tufi Sele (Wellington), Zoe McBride (Nelson), Chris Harris (Aramaho Wanganui). Wairau RC: Alex Peter, Brad Armstrong, Brad Newton, Chris James, Holly Parsons, Jessica Donald, Matt Almond, Paul Chambers, Portia Barcello. Picton RC: Keiran Gaudin, Ryan Gaudin, Caitlin Harvey, Steve Cottle, Trent Burbidge. Blenheim RC: Elliot Harvey.
- The Marlborough Express