Northern beaches sport: Inside Back column

ON TRACK: Beau Nicholas, Brandon Smith, Oliver St Pierre and Joshua Wilson.
ON TRACK: Beau Nicholas, Brandon Smith, Oliver St Pierre and Joshua Wilson.

The ancient Bulgarian city of Plovdiv is a long way from Adelaide, Australia, but both places will soon be the centre of the universe for four young northern beaches rowers.

In normal times (remember those?), St Augustine's College students Beau Nicholas, Brandon Smith, Oliver St Pierre and Joshua Wilsonwould be busy preparing for the long haul to eastern Europe for the World Junior Championships on Plovdiv's famous Maritsa river. While that event will go ahead, COVID concerns have grounded Australia's best rowers and they will instead compete against each other in Adelaide from Thursday. The times from the internal regatta will then be measured against the results in Bulgaria to give our rowers an indication of where they stand internationally. Adelaide will also give our Olympic crews one last hit-out before they head to Japan next month.

While naturally disappointed not to be going to Bulgaria, our four local boys are relishing the opportunity to compete on two fronts in the quads event. "It will be important to push our competitors on the other side of the world (and also) push and work with crews in the age groups above us in Australia," Nicholas said. "It is a massive advantage to our development, not only as individuals but also as a crew."

Wilson added: "We are racing against people who are a lot older and more experienced than us, but it will be a good opportunity to see what we can achieve later on in the sport."

Nicholas, Smith, St Pierre and Wilson row together for school, club (Mosman) and country - a rare feat in an event where rowers from various crews are often cherry-picked and combined based on individual times. On the back of winning gold at the recent national rowing championships, the foursome is aiming to record a sub-six minute time in Adelaide to push their cause for re-selection in next year's World Junior Rowing Championships in Italy.

Love thy neighbour

The successful local derby anniversary lunch last Friday has convinced former Warringah rugby captain Mat Guberina that now - more than ever - is the time to get serious about a merger with neighbour Manly. 'Gub' played six seasons without losing a game to the Marlins before joining the Sea Eagles and is well versed in the history, animosity and rivalry of the Battle of the Beaches. But the ex-backrower is concerned about the long-term future of rugby in this area. "I know the old blokes won't like it, but I think the two clubs should merge," he told Inside Back. "Imagine combining resources, sponsorship, juniors - you would have an absolute powerhouse club. I think it makes sense."

Always one to speak his mind, Gub knows he will cop some flak for talking mergers. But he wants the game to grow at a time when the structure of the Shute Shield is under the microscope like never before. Manly and Warringah have only won two premierships between them in the past 38 years, but would be near unstoppable as a combined force.

Guberina was blown way to see an audience of 700-plus gather to commemorate 50 years of hostilities between the two arch-rivals. "It goes to show that while we were miles apart in the past, we can come together and get things done with cooperation," he said.

Vale Chris Humphrey

Inside Back remembers Chris "House" Humphrey causing all sorts of havoc at Forest Rugby Club's Mad Monday celebrations following the Greens' 1998 grand final win in the NSW subbies comp. The cheeky little scrum half terrorised teammates by giving them a friendly pat on the head, with Nair hair removal cream concealed in his hand. You've never seen so many prematurely bald blokes in your life.

Before joining Forest, Chris played 89 grade games for Manly - 12 in first grade - between 1991-96. In recent years you'd find him smiling behind the counter at the family newsagency in Manly Corso.

Sadly, the 51-year-old lost his long fight with neuroendocrine cancer last Friday, leaving behind wife Chloe and three young children. His funeral service will be held at St Matthews Church, Manly, at 1.30pm Thursday.

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