By Tim Howard
After 13 years of schooling, this year is going to be the one where champion Yamba lifesaver Alyce Bennett learns a lot about herself.
The HSC graduate from Maclean High School, who has just returned from touring New Zealand with the NSW Country Surf Life Saving team, plans to take a year off studying to train hard and see where her sport takes her.
She is weighing up options of deferred study at either Griffith University on the Gold Coast, or Newcastle University, although the strength of the surf lifesaving competition up north has virtually made the decision for her.
"It's almost definite I will study at Griffith Uni," she said.
"The plan is to move up where I will be studying, settle in for the year, train hard, compete and see what happens."
Alyce begins the year buoyed by the NSW Country team's success competing in New Zealand.
In the tri-series competition between New Zealand, the NSW Central Coast and NSW Country, her team led throughout to win the pointscore competition.
"I think the Central Coast has won it five out of the six years since the competition started," Alyce said.
Alyce said the tactical element of teams competition in the tri-series had been stimulating.
"It was different to competition at carnivals, where it's everyone for themselves," Bennett, the team vice-captain, said.
"In the board races the juniors and the opens competed together.
"But if the Under-16 paddler came fourth, he wasn't the first in the Under-16s, he came fourth in the race.
"In my race, the Under-16 girl from Byron caught a freak wave and got in front.
"Me and another NSW girl were in second and third. Instead of sprinting to catch her up and bring the rest of the pack up with us, we let her go and then raced the other for second and third to make sure we got a one, two, three."
Alyce's team won the board paddling and her paddling in the taplin relays, where she won two legs and came second in the other, was also pleasing.
Unfortunately she picked up a niggling shoulder injury during the tour, which has kept her out of competition since the team returned on January 28.
"I've just got back into full training now, preparing for the North Coast branch titles at Fingal," she said.