Lennox on crest of a wave
By ADAM HICKS
LENNOX Head-Alstonville has assumed the mantle of the Far North Coast's strongest surflife saving club, ending decades of dominance by Byron Bay.
In the NSW Country Championships last weekend, Lennox Head won the junior section and finished third overall, 162 points ahead of Byron Bay.
It is the second year in a row Lennox Head has finished the championships above Byron Bay and comes as a result of deep-seated changes in the club's constitution.
Head coach Lou Wilson said the club's culture had developed into one where members pushed each other to strive for new highs.
"We've just undertaken a fairly lengthy program starting seven or eight years ago and it's being serendipitous," he said.
"We started training young kids who wanted to do it and it's grown from there. The intention was just to get fit ourselves and kids wanted to come along. We've got better at being coaches and now we have that culture of competition and everyone doing their best.
"We've been coaching over the past seven years to get that culture, to get younger guys coming through and see what the older guys can do.
"And they grow up in a culture where they train to do their best and are used to going out in conditions that are somewhat difficult, and all the time developing into the best surf life savers they can be."
Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club won the NSW Country Championships 20 times in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.
Far North Coast surf life saving stalwart John Watson said that while Byron Bay still had a number of quality athletes, the club was not the powerhouse it used to be.
"They were a force for a long time but over the past five years they lost that mantle," he said.
"For a lot of years, as far as country championships went, they won it that many times that it was theirs.
"They haven't been the most dominant for three years.
"There is not just one factor that causes it. Look at every sport; you get teams wthat o have a run for 10, 15 years and all of a sudden the slide down the barrel.
"It's just one of those things, it happens."
Watson also said Lennox Head's progressive attitude contributed to the changing of the guard.
"Lennox is a very go-ahead club. They train most mornings of the week and Lou has them running really, really well.
"He has a good team of coaches and a good support team, and with the constant coaching they're putting in, they're reaping all the rewards now," he said.
But that doesn't mean Byron Bay will cease to be competitive.
"They have always bounced back. Once you've been at the top of the heap and you get beat, you want to get back and Byron Bay still has some top competitors," he said.
Wilson said the club's juniors exceeded expectations with a 59-point margin between them and junior runner-up Cudgen Headland.
"We're over the moon! It's an exceptional performance and to do it for the first time is just another milestone in the development of surf sports at the club," he said.
"I thought we'd do well, but we've never won the pointscore before ... I am surprised by the margin.
"The juniors performed well across all age groups. While those athletes we expected to do well got among the medals, a lot of other s performed at their absolute best and continued to pick up points.
"It was the culmination of hard work and gutsy efforts."
Wilson also praised the efforts of coaches Tony Barnett, Glen Moriarty, John Fleming, Peter Fahey and Ray Leaver, who all volunteer their time to coach the juniors.