Matthew Parkin won bronze in the 100m freestyle at NSW Combined Catholic Colleges swimming. He will turn his talents to surf lifesaving this weekend.
Matthew Parkin won bronze in the 100m freestyle at NSW Combined Catholic Colleges swimming. He will turn his talents to surf lifesaving this weekend. Adam Hourigan

Champion in the making

MINNIE Water-Wooli Surf Life Saving Club nipper Matthew Parkin may not have grown much this year, but he’s definitely made his mark.

Earlier this year the 12-year-old was part of the Combined Catholic Colleges school team who competed at the NSW All Schools Swimming Championships in Sydney, and during the September/October school holidays, went back to Sydney Olympic Park to represent Swimming North Coast at a development swim meet.

Now he is in Cape Hawke, near Forster, as part of the North Coast Branch Surf Lifesaving team to compete in the NSW Interbranch Championship today and tomorrow.

Competing against him in the Far North Coast inter-branch team is Yamba Surf Life Saving Club’s only representative, Jorden Elabbasi, a teenager who continually excels in surf-lifesaving and surfing competitions.

The two-day carnival will the athletes’ last opportunity to push their chances of being named in the state team, which will be announced on Sunday evening immediately following the competition.

Minnie Water-Wooli Surf Life Saving Club Nipper coordinator Angela Hinterholzl said each surf lifesaving branch can only send three competitors in each age group, two for water events and one for beach events.

“The U13 boys age group is a highly competitive division,” Mrs Hinterholzl said.

“I’ve watched Matthew for the past four seasons and the thing that impresses me the most about him is that he never gives up.”

Parkin’s selection for the team was based on a point score over two carnivals, one at Coffs and the other at Woolgoolga, and his performance at last season’s North Coast Branch titles which were held at Minnie Water.

Nicknamed ‘Fish’ by his school mates because of the amount of time he spends in the water swimming, surfing, sailing or at Nippers showed what he was made of at the Woolgoolga carnival when his final event for the day, the U13 Ironperson, was restarted four times.

“The weather was atrocious,” Mrs Hinterholzl said.

“It had rained all day and it was cold.

“After the third restart, the leaders had just turned the last buoy in the swim leg and were returning to shore when all competitors where plucked from the water by the IRB crews.”

With plenty of talk in the media about sharks, a number of the kids began to worry when water safety picked them up but it was a safety call until visibility improved, she said.

“Matt was one of the worried kids and I thought he might not get back in the water for the Ironperson event.”

In the end he did compete in the Ironperson event, earning himself enough points to make the cut for selection in the Interbranch team.

Parkin said he had enjoyed representative sport this year.

“I’ve made lots of new friends through swimming and what’s really great is that they do Nippers too,” he laughed.

“When I go to Cape Hawke, my mate Nick [from Coffs Harbour] is going with me as part of the North Coast team and my other friends Kye [Mid-North Coast] and Joseph [Far North Coast] will be there too.”

“Competition is only part of Nippers.

“In the end, we’re involved in surf lifesaving to learn skills to save ourselves and others, so mateship is really important to me.”

Parkin is planning on completing his Surf Rescue Certificate when he turns 13 so he can start beach patrols as part of the Minnie-Water Wooli Surf Club.

Daily wraps, results and photos are also available from the SLSNSW media team on site. Full event details, team lists, timetables and results can be found on the NSW Interbranch Championships Event Page.