New Zealand surf lifesaving star Devon Halligan is aiming to farewell her teens in style when she makes her debut in the prestigious Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman series in Western Australia this weekend.
Halligan will turn 20 on Monday and regardless of her performance at Scarborough Beach in Perth the day before, she'll be able to reflect back on a career-defining 12 months.
Buoyed by winning the world championships teams' title with the Black Fins in Adelaide last month, Halligan also won the New Zealand ironwoman crown in 2012 and finished runner-up at the Australian titles.
The daughter of former Kiwis league player Daryl, Halligan is hoping the feel-good factor associated with the world championships will have a flow-on effect during the six-stop A$400,000 (NZ$500,000) series.
"Last season I was knocking on the door with the top girls and this season I reckon I can match it with them," said Halligan, the only Kiwi in the 18-strong women's field.
"I came out of worlds on an absolute high last month. It made me that little bit more excited about being on the series and hopefully I'll be able to get near that feeling again with some good results." Born and raised in North Sydney, Halligan is now based on the Gold Coast and is studying engineering at Griffith University and training with the local Kurrawa Surf Club.
She qualified for the series in April when placing second to Rebecca Creedy at the Australian titles, an achievement that allowed her to concentrate on the world championships rather than have to take on the ironman qualifying series in September.
Halligan, who previously represented Australia at age-group level, pledged allegiance to New Zealand and has another Kiwi for company on the circuit, Gold Coast-based Aucklander Chris Moors.
He made the 17-member men's roster in September, trains with Halligan at Kurrawa and was impressed with her development.
"She's pretty powerful and she'll be a standout on the ski and also in the swimming legs," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there were some podium finishes, which would be pretty cool in a rookie year."
Halligan is the first New Zealand female to qualify for the series since Lucy Pengelly in 2007, although Aimee Berridge was called into the series for the final two rounds last season.
With reigning champion Liz Pluimers and her illustrious Northcliffe clubmate Kristyl Smith both absent this year a new wave of female talent has emerged, including Halligan, Alyssa Bull and Jordan Mercer, who was fourth in her series debut last season.
Moors, meanwhile, is excited about joining the likes of four-times world ironman champion Shannon Eckstein and Olympic swimmer Ky Hurst on the series.
The 28-year-old, who grew up in Red Beach on Auckland's North Shore, has been living and training on the Gold Coast since 2010 and his perseverance has finally paid off.
"I'm well aware it's going to be another massive step up but I'm looking forward to it," said Moors, the 2011 New Zealand ironman champion.
Sunday's format consists of individual ski, swim and board races followed by an ironman, with points accumulated to decide the round winner.
Further rounds will be held in New South Wales and Victoria next month, before the final three rounds in Queensland in February.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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