Hancock sisters lead local charge

IF there's a club that can claim to being aptly named this weekend, then the surf life saving club at Crowdy Head should be it.

The top surf sports competitors in New South Wales will converge on the Lower North Coast this weekend for one of the most anticipated carnivals of the season the 2006 NSW Interbranch Championships.

Competitors from across the State's 11 branches will be doing battle over two days of competition.

All events are expected to be fiercely contested as success in the Interbranch championships will probably lead to being named in the NSW State Team which is set to be announced at the conclusion of the carnival.

This weekend is the last chance for athletes to push their claims to be selected for the 2007 SLSA Interstate Championships, to be held at Middleton, South Australia in January.

Favourites for the event at Crowdy Head will be Central Coast, who are chasing their fourth victory in as many years.

Initially thinking they'd missed out on their hat-trick last year, a scoring error was found to hand Central Coast their sixth victory in seven years in 2005, with a narrow advantage over Sydney.

"The Interbranch is a fantastic carnival, with the overall depth of regions within the State being truly tested," NSW Surf Sports Operations Manager, Craig Andrews said. "In a sport which is largely individual, the Interbranch gives competitors a rare and unique chance to be part of a larger squad and revel in the team environment."

North Coast athletes are again expected to acquit themselves well.

The Sawtell family of Courtney, Bonnie and India Hancock are likely to lead the local branch from the front as all three sisters will be trying to repeat their feat of making this year's NSW team.

The Interbranch Carnival is unique in it's format. There's only 47 athletes from each branch comprising three male and female competitors in the under-12, under-13, under-14, under-15, under-17, under-19 and open age groups, plus a female surf boat crew.

Traditionally, each branch has entered two water specialists in each category, along with a specialist beach competitor to give each team the balance needed to compete in all the required events.

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