The Canberra Cockatoos retained the National League title today for the 11th time in the last 12 years after the final event of the season, the Australian Relay Championships. A win in the M21A event and a second place in W21A saw them to their victory, as their tenuous six-point lead at the start of the day was stretched to a comfortable 18 by the end.
Canberra looked in a solid position after two legs. Tasmania had a comfortable lead in the women’s race through Grace Elson and Danielle Winslow, but a solid second leg by junior Heather Harding saw the Cockatoos in second place, four minutes ahead of the Victorians. Meanwhile, amongst the men, Blair Trewin had come through from fifth on the second leg to give the Victorians the lead, but Canberra were only forty seconds behind with Grant Bluett to chase Rune Olsen on the last leg.
Any faint hope the Victorians had disappeared at that changeover. Clare Hawthorne took the Victorian men’s map by mistake, disqualifying her own team and delaying Olsen by seven minutes. Although he received a time credit, the wait dropped him from the pack and destroyed his concentration; he lost substantial time at the first control and was never a factor. Bluett would have been very hard to hold anyway, running the fastest time of the day by three minutes, whilst Rob Preston brought New South Wales through for second and the Victorian second team was third.
A flying last leg by Hanny Allston (pictured right) completed an emphatic victory for Tasmania in W21A. The interest was in what happened behind, and Nicki Taws brought Canberra through in second to make absolutely sure of the National League title. South Australia were a surprising third. The Victorian second team came in sixth, giving them enough points to hold off New South Wales for second in the League.
Western Australia won the Junior National League for the first time (team photo of Sarah Dunnage, Cody Whitfield, Kellie Whitfield, Ivan Komyshan, Erin Post and Rhys Challen below). They took a useful lead into the day, and made sure of it with a second in the M20 event, their greatest concern going into today. Tasmania looked as if they could challenge, crossing the line first in both relays; WA’s second in W20 was enough to win them the title anyway, but Tasmania mispunched which made absolutely sure of it.