Hunter surf lifesaving: Junior strength gives hope of breakthrough success at NSW Interbranch

For more than a decade, Hunter have tried and failed to breakthrough for third place at the NSW Interbranch surf lifesaving titles.

RISING STAR: Redhead's Nicola Owen made the Nutri-Grain ironwoman final at Queenscliff in October at the age of 16. Picture: Shane Myers

RISING STAR: Redhead's Nicola Owen made the Nutri-Grain ironwoman final at Queenscliff in October at the age of 16. Picture: Shane Myers

This weekend at Stockton, head coach Tim Foran believes Hunter should be aiming even higher, thanks in part to the exceptional depth of their junior ranks.

Hunter have been perennial fourth-placegetters behind Sydney, Northern Beaches and Central Coast at the titles. The 40-member teams competing consist of 32 athletes across under 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 ages groups, as well as two under-19s in each open line-up.

Foran was confident Hunter’s exciting list of juniors had his squad primed for a breakthrough year.

“It’s been about 14 years since we made the podium but for the past four years we’ve crept back,” Foran said.

“I think we finished about nine points adrift last year and I can see 40 points improvement in the team we’ve picked this year from last year so I can’t see why we can’t podium.

“We’ve got an exceptionally strong 12 years’ squad coming in this year. Many are state champions in their disciplines and that’s going to add some serious points.

“I think we’re aiming for a top two. I think Northern Beaches are going to win it based on their strength right through, but I think we can get Sydney and Central Coast.”

That confidence comes despite the recent loss of under-12 selection Percy Sinclair (groin) to injury and the withdrawal of under-17s Kyle Lehmann and Josh Murphy. Ethan Hamilton, Jye Pastourmoglou and York Dalton have joined the squad.

“We haven’t really been weakened that much by those changes, so it’s still looking really good,” Foran said. “The 17s is very strong. We’ve got a standout swimmer in Claudia Yates in that age group, and then we’ve got Nicola Owen and Amelia Ross, so it is extremely strong in the water. In the 15s, Bella Williams and Nick Stoddart are Australian champions.”

  • HUNTERU12: Zara Foran, Jack Johns, Tiana Sargeant, Ethan Hamilton, Matisse Murray, Kalen Routley. U13: Isabella Campbell, Jack Breasley, Holly Sargeant, Oscar Roberts, Kaylee Dowsett, Trae Fairweather. U14: Grace Hewitt, Daniel Chisholm, Lily Forbes, Flynn Hamilton, Sophia McMahon, Byron Richards. U15: Bella Williams, Fletcher Myers, Eliza Johnson, Nick Stoddart, Jasmin Thomas, Saxon Coates. Youth: Danielle McSeveney, Ethan Coates, Claudia Yates, Jack McGregor, Nicola Owen, Jye Pastourmoglou, Amelia Ross, York Dalton. Open: Lisa Wright, Keiran Gordon, Lily Costello. (U19), Daniel Collins, Sally Walters, Justin McMorland, Emily Ross, Hayden Copping (U19).