19 September 2022

Ocean swimmers and winter warriors hit the water in Wagga for the National Championships

| Chris Roe
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Swimmer diving

Wagga’s Matt Oaks begins the 3rd leg of the 10-man relay as Nathan Doyle finishes his swim. Photo: Glenn Maslin.

While taking a dip in the pool may not be top of mind for most at this time of year, hundreds of dedicated swimmers have converged on Wagga Wagga for the 2022 National Winter Swim Championships.

Six Australian records were broken at the Oasis Aquatic Centre where Wagga’s Winter Crows played host to open water swimmers from as far away as WA.

“We had 526 swimmers from all over Australia,” explains club secretary Anthony Paul, before listing a creatively titled collection of clubs.

“We had the Cottesloe Crabs from Western Australia, the Tweed Heads and Collungatta Dolphins, the Gold Coast Marlins and then all sorts from Sydney and the South Coast.

“The Bondi Icebergs, the Bronte Splashers, Harboard Frigid Frogs and the Narooma Numnutz.”

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Mr Paul explains that winter swimmers span a broad demographic and competition is mostly done in age groups.

“We had [Federal member] Michael McCormick down there for the opening and the first event was the over 85s,” he says with a smile.

“One guy was 90, so we had three swimmers in that one aged 90, 86 and 87.”

Local builder Glenn Maslin is a longtime member of the club and enjoyed success at the event on Sunday.

He says Wagga was a popular place for the Championships with a warm local welcome, plenty of nearby accommodation and heated swimming facilities.

“It’s obviously pretty rare to have a swimming club like ours so far inland, mainly because on the coast you’ve got your rock pools where they’re swimming through winter,” he says.

“A lot of them came down on the Friday, they went to Romano’s then on Saturday they all converged to the races and then backed up on Sunday morning when we did the event and then back down to Romano’s for the presentation.

“It’s great for the town!”

A total of six Australian records were broken across various age categories and events and the locals picked up a silver in the open 10-man relay.

medal winners

Wagga’s Winter Crows won silver in the open 10-man relay, (L to R) Daniel Pezet, Kate Roberts, Euan Crocker, Shaun Bennet, Glen Tarbit, David Lenton, Adrian Inglis, Chris Egan. Photo: Glenn Maslin.

While Wagga may seem an unlikely venue to attract so many ocean clubs, the city boasts a long history of lifesaving, and swimming clubs dating back to the 19th century.

“We’re sort of like an inland surf club,” says Anthony Paul.

“The Wagga Beach Lifesaving Club has been going for 65 years and we used to patrol the beach.

“We looked just like the Bondi lifesavers with the caps on and we had the reel down there.”

These days the Wagga Leagues Swimming Club includes about 60 members who meet regularly to swim the river in Summer and the pool during winter and high water.

“Old blokes like myself walk two kilometres up the river, the young guys run on a handicap basis and then we’ll swim back down or another week we might swim across,” says Mr Paul.

“Then we have a few beers or a barbecue.”

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Glenn Maslin agrees that it’s a great way for local blokes to connect.

“It’s a good men’s club where they can come down to the river and do a little bit of exercise and have a bit of a catch-up,” he said, before acknowledging Anthony Paul’s work in bringing the national event to town.

“It was so great to get the event down here to Wagga and we had so much good feedback from the competitors that stayed here on how well it was run and catered for.”

The event alternates between the city and regional locations each year and the Wagga Winter Crows are keen to bring it back in the near future.

“I think in another four years I imagine we’ll end up getting it back again.” Mr Masin says.

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