Belletty spreads dragon boat word to Clarence Valley youths
ALEX BELLETTY is leading the charge for junior dragon boating in the Clarence Valley.
The 16-year-old has already experienced enormous success in the sport, and is urging Valley juniors to take up the sport.
"It's such a great sport. I don't know why more people don't participate," Belletty said.
"The social side of it is probably one of the best parts. Some of the best friends I have I met through dragon boating."
Belletty has paddled with Grafton Dragon Boat Club for several years, after moving from Darwin seven years ago.
He took a liking to the sport almost immediately and proved to be a quality paddler.
His career highlight so far was undoubtedly representing the Torpedoes, an Australian junior team that travelled to Hong Kong for the world championships last year.
"That was unreal," Belletty said.
"We paddled in the harbour and there were thousands of competitors there from around the world.
"They had all these barges set up down one side, which were all full of colour and everything."
Belletty took home a silver medal from the championships, but it was the experience that will stick with Year 11 student forever.
That could be one of the main reasons he is helping a Grafton Dragon Boat Club campaign to get more juniors involved.
He points to "world-class" coaches Leanne and Martin Thompson as perfect reasons to join, saying they were some of the best coaches he'd ever had.
"They are great," he said.
"During the Torpedoes campaign they happily travelled everywhere and got everyone together.
"Some of the other coaches yell and scream at some of their kids but they're always calm and collected."
Leanne Thompson is organising the Grafton Dragon Boat Club's annual regatta on October 26-27 and wants to get a junior division together.
Her plan is to get a team from each local school, with Grafton, South Grafton and Maclean high schools, as well as Belletty's McAuley Catholic College, in her sights.
"We really want to get a junior schools category happening and are offering them cheaper entry fees to make it happen," Thompson said.
"It used to be offered as a sport in some schools but we just didn't have the time to keep it going.
"We work within the International Dragon Boat Federation rules where paddlers have to be 12 years and older, so hopefully we can get plenty of juniors out there."