Aussies offer powerful Great Race challenges

Great Race men's debutants Sydney University have named a powerful eight to challenge the defending champion Waikato University boat on Sunday.

The Sydney crew will feature two members of the Australian eight which finished sixth at the London Olympics, along with national under-23 champion single sculler Alexander Grigorievich Belonogoff.

Waikato, Sydney and Queensland University will contest the Harry Mahon Trophy at the Gallagher Great Race on the Waikato River, while the same three universities will also challenge for the Bryan Gould Cup in the women's eights.

Sydney's Nicholas Purnell was in the Australian eight which made the A final in London. Purnell won bronze in the eight at the 2010 world champs at Lake Karapiro and last year captured bronze in the men's four in Bled, Slovenia.

Tobias Lister will have a key role for Sydney as the coxswain who will have to guide the boat through the tricky conditions while fighting for superior position against the other two crews. Lister was also part of the 2010 bronze-medal winning eight at Karapiro and was cox when the eight finished fourth in 2011.

Queensland will also contest the event for the first time and will be led by crew captain Harry Baxter, the state under-20 champion in the men's pair, four, quad and eight. Angus Morton has won national lightweight titles in the double and quad sculls, while Cameron Smith was the Australian under-19 champion in 2010.

The Sydney University women's crew had to bow last year to the hosts, but will again present a tough foe.

The experienced duo of Sarah Cook and Sally Kehoe, who were in the Australian women's eight which finished sixth in London, will be at the heart of their challenge. Cook has been to five world champs while Kehoe has contested six world champs.

Queensland University will be led by Jennifer Krippner, who was a silver medallist in the under-23 women's pair at the 2011 national champs and also competed in the Australian Youth Olympics in 2009. Clare Gilbride was a team-mate in those Australian crews while Alexandra French was a member of this year's Queensland Youth Cup team.