REDHEAD’S Daniel Collins is excited about the new-look national ironman series despite the loss of his home event and a costly reduction in automatic qualifiers.
In February this year Collins became the first Hunter ironman to qualify for the national series final since Josh Blair in 2010. Collins made the cut through his Summer of Surf series results and clubmate Isak Costello later joined him as a wildcard.
Collins then exceeded expectations with seventh overall in the three-round final at North Cronulla to seemingly secure re-qualification for 2017-18 as a top-eight competitor.
However, it was announced this month that the national series will change. The Nutri-Grain ironman and ironwoman series will no longer have a stand-alone contest but instead be part of the six-leg Ocean6 series, which replaces Summer of Surf, and features board, swim, ski, taplin relay and beach flags events.
The top six from last year's final qualify for the 20-strong ironman and ironwoman finals at all stops. The other 14 places at the first three rounds are decided through heats. The top six non-qualifiers on points from the first three rounds earn automatic final spots for rounds four to six. Overall winners are decided on a pointscore counting athletes’ best five results.
It means Collins misses out on automatic qualifying for all finals by only one place, but the 21-year-old was unfazed.
“It’s very similar to what we did last year for qualifying for the Summer of Surf, so we’ve been through it before,” Collins said. “It’s still exciting because it’s a new format and it’s something else to adjust to. It used to be top 10 for re-qualification, then it dropped to top 8. Top six is fair enough because the big names of the sport are that top six anyway, so you can understand where that’s coming from.
“But I’m excited for another season and to chase it down again and do the qualification again. I did it last year so I take a lot of confidence out of those results.”
Final Bay hosted a Summer of Surf round last year but Ocean6 will not take in the Hunter this season. Round one is at Queenscliff on October 28-29 and is followed by stops at Coolum, North Wollongong, Torquay and Fairhaven Beaches, Surfers Paradise and North Cronulla.
Collins said it was a shame to lose the Hunter round.
“It’s always nice to race around home so you can get your friends and family to come down and see it,” he said. “But that’s all right, we’ve been lucky to have three years of Summer of Surf here and a lot of places don’t get to have any at all.”
Collins did not compete at the Coolangatta Gold last weekend but several clubmates performed well.
Lily Costello was second and Nicola Owen fourth in the under-19 women’s short-course. In the long-course, Justin McMorland was a 14th in the elite men’s event at his first attempt. Hayden Copping was second and Ethan Coates fifth in the under-19s. In the 35-50 men’s, Brendon Ross won on the short-course and Nathan Stewart was third on the long-course.
Former Redhead ironman Kyle Garrett, now with Avoca Beach, was second in the men’s short-course race.