Ironman Matt Poole will look to brush off a turbulent 12 months when he hits the surf and sand at North Burleigh next weekend in search of a maiden Queensland title.
This time last year, Poole was the cornerstone of a star-studded Mooloolaba team alongside the likes of Ali Day and Matt Bevilacqua, but a decision by the club to cut back on its sports funding left him high and dry, prompting a shift south to Kurrawa on the Gold Coast.
Six months down the track, the 28-year-old has settled into life on the Gold Coast and is looking forward to spearheading his new club’s assault on the Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships (March 18-20).
“At the start, it was a huge shock to the system – I’d been on the Sunshine Coast for the past six or seven years, so having to pack up everything and move down the road to the Gold Coast was a big change, but I’ve really embraced it and I’m loving it,” he said.
“I’m actually feeling really at home now at Kurrawa, and I love training there and competing for the club; it’s such a great team environment and atmosphere.
“I’ll certainly be doing my best to medal at States in the ironman, the swim and even the board race, but it’s also a great opportunity to trial some team events and see what we can pull together there for the club,” he said.
With some of the sport’s biggest names set to line up at this year’s Queensland Championships, Poole believes it will be a familiar name pushing the pace.
“Shannon Eckstein’s been the man to beat all year; he’s obviously got a lot of confidence at the moment and he’s been racing really well,” Poole said.
“But, going to North Burleigh and then even looking ahead to Maroochydore for Aussies, anything could happen, and I know all of the boys will be out there doing their best to win and not let him have it all his own way.”
The 2016 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships kick off at North Burleigh on March 11 with the youth competition, before the state’s top ironmen and women take centre state the following weekend (March 18-20).
The Championships represent the culmination of Queensland’s surf sport season and, for many competitors, will be their last opportunity to build momentum and fine tune preparations ahead of the Australian Championships on the Sunshine Coast in April.