Devon Halligan togs up to dish out towelling

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012

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Daryl Halligan used to torment opponents with a radar boot and a plastic tee. His daughter prefers to kick sand in their faces.

And Devon Halligan, 19, has already inflicted a body blow of sorts to her Australian rivals before the world surf life saving championships start in Adelaide today by opting to compete against them in the black togs of New Zealand.

Born in Sydney and raised on the city's northern beaches at Manly, the teenager pledged allegiance to her parents' birthplace in April and is considered a key member of a 12-strong New Zealand team striving to claim the world title for the first time since 1998 in Auckland.

New Zealand were fifth in 2000 and since then the Kiwis have been runners-up to Australia, most recently two years ago in Egypt where they were pipped in the beach events on the final day.

Halligan, who is studying engineering at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, has a busy schedule in the three-day pool format and then on the beach at Glenelg. It is the oceanwoman event to which she is expected to add the greatest value.

With the scores of two competitors from each country counting towards the team event, New Zealand have traditionally had one strong entrant and a battler - so the reigning Australian under-19 Ironwoman champion's ability to complement Nikki Cox could prove crucial.

"The great thing for us is we've got two girls that are real top notch who will really push it, and push each other," team manager Mark Weatherall said. "Devon's a guiding light for us to some degree. We're not singling her out or anything but she's going to be a bit of a weapon."

A towering presence at 1.90 metres tall, Halligan competes for Manly in next week's club titles and could have been attired in green and gold at the Adelaide aquatic centre when the simulated emergency response competition opens the programme tomorrow.

Halligan has barely dipped her toes into Kiwi waters in comparison to her immersion in Australian surf since she started her life saving career as a 5-year-old "nipper" but decided to go with New Zealand after minimal guidance from Dad, a 20-test Kiwi rugby league international turned goal-kicking consultant and television commentator.

"For me, it was a personal decision to represent New Zealand. I've always kind of classified myself as a Kiwi," said Halligan, a former member of Australia's high-performance programme.

Daryl Halligan, who kicked 855 goals while playing 230 first-grade games for North Sydney and the Bulldogs between 1991 and 2000, said he was comfortable with whichever country Devon chose.

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"I think you have an influence in terms of being a parent, in some form, but I don't think it was great. It wouldn't have worried me one way or the other.

"I've been pretty liberal with what's been going on with the footy codes too," he said, referring to the eligibility sagas involving James Tamou and Sam Kasiano.

The Australians don't appear to hold a grudge that Devon Halligan has aligned herself to the underdogs.

Their women's captain, Kristyl Smith, who trains with Halligan on the Gold Coast, was relaxed as she approached her fifth world championships.

"Good on Devon, but hopefully she'll be seeing the back of the green and gold cap," she said. Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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