More games, more teams

THIS year’s Great Southern Football League Women’s competition is fast approaching and spectators can expect more bang for their buck this time around.

The competition has expanded to include teams from Denmark-Walpole and Mount Barker with games scheduled for McLean Oval and Sounness Park.

West Australian Football Commission Great Southern Regional Development Manager Matt Bishop said it was an exciting time for female participation in the fastest growing segment in Australian football.

“Female participation increased nationally by 21,000 in 2018 to 176,000, most of which has been inspired by the evolution and growth of AFLW,” he said.

“This is also true of the Great Southern but it has also been dependent on the opportunity to play.

“Despite the GSFLW only starting in 2018, there have been women’s development program in place since the early 2010s.

“The first two seasons of the GSFLW have been well supported and it is exciting that this has inspired Denmark-Walpole and Mount Barker to enter teams.”

With the addition of two new teams, and two new venues comes almost double the amount of fixtures than the previous season with 10 rounds scheduled plus the three finals rounds.

Bishop said going forward he would like to see an expansion in the junior ranks for female footy.

“There are currently no opportunities for girls, around 12 to 16-year-old, to play in female-only competitions,” he said.

“This is something that we are going to explore in 2020 by providing interested girls with an opportunity to train and play with their friends. We plan to hold training and or games prior to the GSFLW games during the 2020 season.”

Bishop said with the growth in the league, there would only be more opportunities for girls to participate in school carnivals and other events.

“There are plans to provide aspiring girls with the opportunity to participate in representative footy through the establishment of a GSFL women’s team that will participate in the WACFL Country Championships in July,” he said.

“This will also include the continuation of the annual visit by the Claremont Women’s Football Club in late March where the representative team will have the opportunity to play a WAFLW team. Hopefully these opportunities will help unearth the next Sophie McDonald, the first GSFLW Fairest and Best player and now West Coast Eagle.”

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Albany crew in iconic yacht race

IT WAS one minute into 2020 when Albany sailors Mark McRae, Corrina Ridgway and Stephen Lee officially crossed the finish line at the recent Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The trio had departed from Sydney aboard the 36ft Spirit of Freya more than five days prior, travelling 1170km down Australia’s eastern coastline and overcoming everything from windless doldrums to extreme storms.

“I say to people, you wouldn’t believe it, Hobart council and the Tasmanian Government put on an awesome fireworks display just for us,” Mr McRae joked about the state’s 2020 New Year’s Eve display.

“We pulled in and there were thousands of people on the docks and they were partying and yelling out ‘Freya, Freya’ and throwing beers on board.

“It was almost overwhelming, it was amazing.”

While Spirit of Freya placed 150th out of more than 170 yachts in line honours, Mr McRae said the journey was well worth embarking upon.

The 62-year-old experienced yachtsman recalled the challenging conditions the crew experienced as they neared the end of their run.

“We got smashed with a really nasty storm, 40 to 45 and sometimes 48- knot gusts,” he said.

“There was heavy, heavy, heavy hail and I was at the steering wheel and it was hitting me in the eyes, along with the saltwater spray. It was all hands on deck.”

“We were very fortunate when one of the bigger boats (the American owned Cailin Lomhara) actually sailed back and stood by and just watched us for a few hours until the storm abated.”

The crew, comprised of the Albany group and four sailors from Victoria, also endured long hours of idleness when zero-knot wind left them “bobbing around like corks in the ocean”.

Mr McRae said Mr Lee’s and Ms Ridgway’s professionalism trimming the sails and helming the yacht was invaluable.

He said he hoped to compete in the 76th iteration of the event next year.

Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s NSW yacht Comanche took home first place line honours this run, pulling into port only one day, 18 hours and 30 minutes after departing Sydney.

Record holder Wild Oats XI, also from NSW, placed third behind Infotrack while Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban was declared overall handicap winner.

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Dive in for New Year’s Eve swim

KEEN swimmers will usher in the new year with a splash at the end of the month when they take to the sea for Albany’s annual New Year’s Eve open swim.

Around 100 people are expected to dive into the waters off Middleton Beach from 7.30am on December 31 for a series of timed races varying in length and difficulty.

Albany Surf Life Saving Club President Rob Mason said the popular event, now in its third year, was a great way to finish off 2019.

“The idea is that it’s meant to be a friendly and uncomplicated sort of swim,” he said.

“We want it to be really inclusive, so it’s open to young and old, slower and faster swimmers and elite athletes.

“Everyone’s welcome, there’s no age restriction on the short swim, and we just ask that little kids are chaperoned by a parent or guardian.”

Participants have the option of partaking in a 400m swim within Middleton Beach’s swimming enclosure, or 1.25km, 2.5km and 5km legs in open water.

Mr Mason said the different options appealed to a variety of swimmers.

“There’s a group of people that really love the short distance and love to swim within the enclosure,” he said.

“On the other end of the spectrum, there are other people that really love the more difficult 5km leg.

“Apart from the Harbour Swim down here, which is 4km long, there are really not many long distance open water swims even within a couple of hundred kilometres.”

Those interested can register at

Early bird pricing cuts off on Sunday and online registrations close December 30.

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Crew on deck for famous race

AN Albany trio will jet over east in the coming days to test their sailing mettle at the world-renowned Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Owner of Southern Ocean Sailing Mark McRae, his colleague Corrina Ridgway and local GP Stephen Lee will join four sailors from Victoria for the 1170km race, which begins in Sydney on Boxing Day.

They will compete against 170 other yachts for the event’s 75th anniversary and are expected to spend more than three days at sea aboard Melbourne-based Joanne Harpur’s 36ft Spirit of Freya.

“The Sydney to Hobart is considered one of the great ocean races in the world and it’s a pretty tough one,” Mr McRae told the Weekender on Tuesday.

“I’m hoping we get weather that suits our boat and blows us down the coast. Arriving in Hobart, we’ll all have a lump in our throats, and it’ll be amazing.”

Mr McRae got his first taste for sailing as a child when he used to fashion together empty drums with bits of bamboo and string and take them down Wimmera River in Horsham, Victoria.

He has since been all over the world, commandeering yachts of up to 100ft in size through ice fields in Antarctica, around Cape Horn, to the Falkland Islands and through the Caribbean.

“I reckon if I don’t get my feet wet everyday with saltwater, I get withdrawal symptoms a bit like smoking cigarettes,” he said.

“It’s an addiction and it’s a terrific one. It’s such a glorious thing to do.”

While Mr McRae has previously delivered yachts to Sydney for the annual race, this year’s run marks his first personal attempt at it.

The 62-year-old will be the crew’s lead navigator and will be tasked with reading the wind, weather conditions and ocean currents to ensure a fast and safe run to the Tasmanian capital.

“Beyond that, there’s a lot of luck in sailing,” he said.

“People scramble and fight and scratch and spit and punch for the start line, but really it’s just a gust of wind at the other end that could get you across the line.

“With this race it’s probably about sailing at 85 to 90 per cent capacity.

“Once we go over that, we’re putting a lot of pressure on the boat and the crew and we don’t want accidents or to break the boat. We want to get to Hobart in one piece.”

Although the Sydney to Hobart has been a relatively straightforward challenge in recent years, it has had its share of mishaps.

In 1998, five boats sank and six people were killed when a severe storm struck as participating yachts entered the Bass Strait.

The event was first held in 1945 and has since become one of the most widely known yacht races in the world.

Star yacht Wild Oats XI has won line honours on nine different occasions, first in 2005 and most recently in 2018.

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McGraths master martial arts

FOR Albany martial arts instructor Daniel McGrath, taking the top spot at the recent National All Star Championships in Melbourne was an achievement decades in the making.

The 35-year-old beat out more than a dozen fighters from around Australia in the comp’s continuous male black belt division and credited much of his success to a near lifelong commitment to the sport.

“I’ve been doing martial arts since my dad got me into it at the age of eight and haven’t stopped since,” McGrath said.

“I train a good five to six days a week so to pull off first place was really great.”

This year marks the first time McGrath has taken gold at the multi-day tournament, which saw him defeat six out of the nine opponents he went up against.

His success is not the only talking point for the McGrath family, with 11-year-old Angel claiming third place in her division and 5-year-old Thai competing for the first time.

“The man who runs the whole thing said Angel had the best kicks he had seen in 20 years and that just blew us away,” McGrath said of his daughter.

“She’s been training real hard for it and while I was hoping she’d pull of first place as well, to be told that just made everything worth it.”

McGrath said he intended to have another go at the Nationals next year.

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Pony club turns 55

A CLUB as old as Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves celebrated its birthday on the weekend with a dress-up day and parade.

The West Plantagenet Pony Club turned 55 on Sunday, marking it as one of the oldest clubs in Pony Club Australia’s 80-year history.

There are 40,000 members in the national group and 24 of them hail from Tenterden, Frankland, Mt Barker, Ongerup and Cranbrook to form the West Plantagenet Pony Club.

In honour of the occasion, the group’s final rally of the year featured a day of pony-related games, including barrel races and bends.

After the end-of-year award ceremony, members showed off their cowboy and Indian-themed costumes in a parade.

Those who attended said although it was a bit hot, the day was full of fun and laughter.

In its early days, the West Plantagenet Pony Club won 13 out of 20 Prince Phillip Mounted Games at the Perth Royal Show.

Recent successes include four members placing in all areas of the State Tetrathalon, a combination of horse riding, swimming, running and shooting.

The Club has also won the Brigid Woss Equitation Turnout Show jumping event twice.

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Fergie’s 92 a royal display

MT BARKER took out their frustrations of consecutive last-ball losses in the previous two weeks over a hapless Denmark on Saturday, posting a massive 148-run victory.

Cars and spectators were in danger as the top-order batsmen went riot, clocking up the largest score of the season.

Things started ominously for Denmark as Mt Barker won the toss and openers Alexander Fergie and Tim Shephard put on an 84-run partnership before the latter was caught off the bowling of Paul Alexander.

This only brought out the explosive and in-form Jeremy Wood with the captain leading by example, smashing a quick-fire 70 off only 47 balls including a couple of towering sixes.

Fergie meanwhile was in the nineties and looking set to record a ton but Wood’s dismissal may have upset his concentration as he went two runs later for 92.

Some late hitting including Nathan Crosby, 31 off only 15 balls including two four and two sixes, and Clayton Wood, 31 off 18 balls, had Mt Barker finishing on an imposing 5/293.

Denmark’s bowling attack battled bravely against the powerful batting line-up with some expensive figures and Alexander was the only multiple wicket-taker with 2/57.

Denmark started brightly with Daniel Robson and Matthew Burton putting on a 97-run stand before Robson was caught for a well-compiled 52.

Then the floodgates opened as Denmark collapsed, the last four batsmen going for ducks as Denmark lost 10-48 to be all out for 145 in the 43rd over.

The Barker bowlers were ruthless with Patrick Butler, Kobi Williams, Todd Hammond and Jeremy Wood all taking two wickets.

On Turf B, Manypeaks won the toss and batted first against Royals with opener Regan Poett continuing his solid form in scoring 28.

Royals were bowling a tight line, restricting the cavalier Manypeaks batsmen but Declan McNamara hit out late belting 44 off 41 balls, well supported by Sebastian Stanton with 32.

Jack Hastie led the bowlers with 2/25 with Bodhi Stubber chiming in with 2/35.

Royals again lost early wickets being 2/15, but Matt Wolfe steadied the ship and put on a valuable partnership with Jack Steel (24) and they looked like victory was in sight.

Enter veterans Ryan Kinnear and Jeremy Stewart who quickly changed the course of the game.

Wolfe was still making runs at will but was rapidly losing partners as Kinnear bamboozled the middle-order and Stewart cleaned up the tail.

Wolfe was left stranded on 93 not out as Royals were all out for 172 in the 47th over.

Kinnear must surely be in discussions amongst the test selectors as he took consecutive five-wicket hauls, finishing with 5/38 off his 10 overs and Stewart claimed 4/34.

The final game saw Collingwood Park all out for 154 that Railways easily accounted for with the loss of six wickets in the 39th over.

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Tester’s victory creates history

GUN Formula 125 driver Jacinta Tester became the first female winner of the prestigious 31st Noel Pearson Memorial on Saturday at Attwell Park, tying with Jamie Langdon in the Limited Sprintcars.

The Memorial is awarded to the club member who has the highest points for the night with Tester and Langdon both having four wins from four starts.

The also acknowledged the contribution of two of its current members, Karla and Wayne Watson, who were awarded Life Membership.

Productions began the night with a solid nine-car field. Unfortunately this was reduced very early in the opening heat when Finlay Mills got caught out on the slick track spinning in front of the field to be collected by Paul Colmer and damaging her car.

After the resulting restart, former state champions Darren Blight and Ron Belfield gave the crowd a teaser of what was to come later, had it not been to a damaged diff in the second heat to Belfield and forcing him out.

Blight would go on to claim the three heats and the feature. The battle for second went down to the last couple of laps between Shane Devonshire and former Street Stock driver Paul Colmer who had returned driving the Jason Batchelor-owned Production.

Devonshire and Colmer ran the highline door-to-door for much of the 12-lap journey until the latter made a pass with just two laps to go, taking second away from Devonshire.

With cars coming from across the state, the Modified Sedans made a welcom return to a club meeting; they race hard, clean and often went three wide to put on a great show.

Debuting his newly-built VZ Commodore Kalgoorlie’s Brendan Selleck started off the back in the first heat to run up against the wall to draw first blood and take the win. Unfortunately during this heat the night went up in a bellow of white smoke for Bill Penn, whose engine let go in a big way.

The following two heats were just as fiercely fought as the first with Matt Kata and Sean Theyer being victorious.

In the final, Theyer started from pole position and during the opening stages raced side-by-side with a number of drivers until breaking free. Kata fell from a podium finish while running second when he almost spun in turn three and four and a number of cars narrowly avoided collecting him.

Paul Stevens, who had travelled from Narrogin, finished in second with Calon Ball, who missed a heat due to work rounded out the podium.

In the remaining divisions last year’s Noel Pearson winner Jason Batchelor (Street Stocks) plus Tyler Fulcher (Production Division 2) and Jasmin Kennedy (Juniors) all took out feature wins.

The club next event is on January 4 when it kicks off a big month with the USA vs WA Speedweek finale before hosting the final two nights of the USA Late Model Invasion Tour on January 18-19.

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Panthers ruthless in crushing Blues

PANTHERS smashed Crystal Blues by 45 points on Tuesday night in the Albany Basketball Association’s Women’s A-Grade competition to join Kinjarling Storm at the top of the ladder.

Despite the lobsided score, the game was played at a physically-frenetic pace with many bruising clashes and even blood being spilt.

Ella Scamozzi continued her outstanding year finishing with 17 points and she was one of five Panthers players to reach double figures in a consistent team effort.

Kayla Thomas with 12 points, Darcy Kerr and Madison Dallimore with 11, the latter shooting the lights out with three monster three-pointers, and Sheridan Kowald with 10 all played well.

The league’s outright leading scorer Valerie Corbett is an offensive juggernaut putting up James Harden-like numbers as she again led her team in scoring with 15 points but had little help from teammates.

The match between Valkyries and Raiders U18 Girls was cancelled while Kinjarling Storm had the bye.

In the Men’s A-Grade, Knights showed while they are two games clear on top as they accounted for Tigers by 30 points.

Henry Alforque led all scorers with 23 points whilst the league’s leading scorer Kye Griffiths still finished with 15 points but was down after consecutive 30+ point games.

For Tigers, Bodhi Holmes stood out with 21 points including a couple from downtown.

There were euphoric scenes as Blazers finally overcame their drought, winning their first game beating Railways Tigers by four points.

Jeffery Fitzpatrick with 13 points and Zac Pearson with 12 helped carry their team to the narrow victory.

For Railways, Kyle Smith with 11 and Cyrus Upson on 10 points threatened to chase down the total.

In the final match, Ambassadors went on a scoring spree against Barking Owls winning 80-54.

Caleb Carman got off the leash totaling a game-high 24 points, Todd Knuiman had his best game of the year with 19 while three-point king David Arthur hit three from long-range in his 15 points.

For the Owls, Xavier Brenton-Reed tallied 15 points supported by Tristan Mckenzie with 13.

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Coach scores role in West Indies

FORMER Albany cricketer Chris Brabazon will be living the dream when he jets out in 11 days to Antigua to commence his new job with Cricket West Indies (CWI).

He is currently the Coach Development Manager for the Western Australian Cricket Association but takes on the role as National Coach Education Manager with CWI, formerly the West Indies Cricket Board.

Brabazon commenced his A-grade career with local team Collingwood Park when he was 15 and played for six seasons, winning a premiership.

A talented sportsman, he played colts football for Royals before crossing to play league for North Albany.

His younger brother Ryan played for the Sydney Swans in the AFL.

Brabazon said he first went over to the West Indies in 2016 with Cricket Australia to coordinate coaching courses.

Eighteen months later, CWI made contact through former 54-test cricket star Jimmy Adams who raised the role with Brabazon.

But the job was put on ice until Ricky Skerrit took over the CWI presidency earlier this year and one of his main priorities was developing West Indian coaches.

Brabazon was contacted again, and this time he signed on for a three-year deal.

“My priority is to develop a national framework looking after the coaches development, and focusing on level two to level three accreditations,” he said.

“The West Indies comprises 15 countries and territories and they are all fiercely independent so it can be a tricky situation.

“So I’ll find out what their philosophy is and then try and implement it.

“Previously it’s been a scattergun approach as the islands drive themselves but now they want their own national system.

“It’s taken them a while to get to this point but to be fair, Australian cricket weren’t that far advanced to them.

“For example, seven years ago my job didn’t exist.”

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