SPORT IN REVIEW: Sun shines on sports stars in January
Teenage duo clinch clean sweep at Yamba
OCEAN SWIMS: Two up-and-coming surf lifesavers proved themselves to be worthy champions at the 2017 Yamba Ocean Swims, leading the pack not once, but three times to each take out trifecta wins.
Sawtell "superfish” Ky Kinsela, 16, defended his 2016 crown in the 700m swim from Convent to Main Beach, in the lead pack for all of the swim.
In his second win in the 2km swim he had a clear run to the finish line with a fast time of 23.07 minutes. Then he topped off the day with a win in the Dash for Cash.
In the women's division, it was 15-year-old Anthea Warne who stood out from the crowd.
The Kingscliff teenager, who is a member of the Cudgen Headland SLSC, tore ahead right from the start in the 700m swim to record a finish time of 9.34 minutes.
And while she had pegged herself as a bit of a sprinter, it didn't show at all during this year's 2km swim race, which she came through with a time of 25.21 minutes.
She also picked up the Dash for Cash to dominate the day alongside Kinsela.
Grafton connections take over podium at Gold Coast run
RUNNING: It was an all-Grafton affair at the top of the podium at last December's Gold Coast Beach Run.
By the end of the 5km women's run, former Grafton resident Trineane Patch had finished with the quickest overall time of 21.21.87, followed by locals Jo Powell and Cass Good.
Taking part in her first competitive beach run, Powell said she was thrilled to finish second.
Axemen sharpen their focus with Speed at helm
RUGBY LEAGUE: After just one season at the helm of Grafton Ghosts under-18s side, the Orara Valley Axemen pulled off a major coup, signing premiership-winning coach Col Speed as their first-grade coach for 2017.
After leading the Grafton Ghosts to consecutive NRRRL titles in 2010 and 2011, Speed joined the Coffs Harbour Comets, coaching the team to three grand finals and winning in 2013.
Speed coached the Ghosts under-18s side in 2016 but the opportunity to return to Group 2 first grade was too good for Speed to refuse.
"I was basically sitting in limbo, looking for an opportunity when (Orara Valley) approached me,” Speed said.
Grafton's own 'boys in blue'
HOCKEY: Tyler Gaddes was hoping to celebrate his birthday in style with his NSW indoor hockey team on a winning note when the Indoor Australian Championships began in January.
Gaddes along with fellow-Grafton junior Rhys Cropper played in the under-13 boys' team representing their state at the championships at Illawarra Hockey Stadium in Wollongong.
For Cropper, it was the first time he had represented his state in the indoor format of the sport. For Gaddes it was his second time in three years playing for NSW after missing out on selection the year before.
Field resurfacing has benefits for the whole community
HOCKEY: Grafton's Brent Livermore Field would be the envy of many hockey clubs around Australia after it was resurfaced in some of the most technologically advanced synthetic grass available in the world.
Over the course of January and February the pitch was replaced with the same surface that was used at the Rio Olympic Games, as well as the upcoming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Baxter gets first opportunity in the big smoke
CRICKET: Clarence River District umpire Bruce Baxter has made a habit of ticking off his bucket list this summer and the seasoned decision-maker added another notch to his belt when he stood in his first Sydney grade cricket clash in January.
In a dream appointment, Baxter stood opposite former Clarence umpire Darren Goodger when Manly hosted Camden-Cabramatta at Manly Oval.
While it was a big occasion for the umpire, he said nerves were far from his mind as he focussed on getting accustomed to the different nuances and laws of Sydney's grade cricket.
McGrath realises dream at open
TENNIS: While she only took to tennis competitively just over two years ago, Grafton's Rahni McGrath is making serious waves.
And in January the effervescent schoolgirl walked on to Australia's home of tennis, Rod Laver Arena, to fulfil a dream at the Australian Open.
McGrath earned the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after she was named ANZ Tennis Hot Shot of December.
As a result of the award, McGrath got an inside look at how the Australian Open is put together and to meet her tennis idols.
Concerns raised as temperatures soar on pitch
CRICKET: There were not many less enviable places than the centre of a cricket field in January as hundreds of players in the Clarence Valley took to the middle when the mercury soared beyond 40 degrees one afternoon.
And the oppressive on-field conditions quickly re-raised concerns over a lack of hot weather policy in the Clarence River Cricket Association handbook.
Coutts Crossing wicket keeper Richie Williamson was outspoken about the need for weather regulation and said it was something the association needed to consider in future.
Leeson shines as Sixers reign in final round
CRICKET: Having waited most of the Rebel Women's Big Bash League season to get her start in magenta, Woodford Island all-rounder Carly Leeson made sure her debut was a memorable one.
Leeson lined up against the Melbourne Renegades and she made an immediate impression with the ball, dismissing Melbourne rival Molly Strano with her first delivery.
Two overs later and Leeson again had reason to smile as Renegades' hitter Amy Yates spooned a delivery straight down the throat of Sara McGlashan at mid-off. Leeson finished with 2-11 off two overs in an effort that stand-in captain Alyssa Healy described as "a blinder”.
CLARENCE VALLEY SPORTSPERSON OF THE MONTH
CHAMPION woodchopper Chris Owen was able notch another award into his axe handle after he swept the votes for December's Sportsperson of the Month Award.
In fine form at the Canterbury A&P Show in New Zealand, Owen was crowned the 2016 Les Gilsenan Memorial 350mm standing block world champion, demolishing his block of timber in 40 seconds.
This was the fifth year in a row Owen competed at the world titles, including the last three as captain of the NSW team, but this was his maiden world title.
He said winning the title came as a surprise, considering the competition he had.
"I had a feeling I'd go close, but I didn't think I would win it,” he said.
"I was cutting quite well all show. The bloke who came second, Shane Jordan, I knew he would be hard to beat, so it was good to get that win.”
Owen said the win in New Zealand would help drive him for future chopping competitions.
"I'll be in Brunswick Heads in the next couple of weeks, which is my next competition,” he said.
Meanwhile, following on from her "outstanding” efforts at the NSW Interbranch Surf Lifesaving Championships at the end of last year Yamba nipper Kalani Ives was crowned Junior Sportsperson of the Month for December.
Kalani won the Under 12s Ironwoman event at The Lakes on the Central Coast in December, where the 11-year-old competed against 20 other girls from across NSW to become Yamba's youngest ironwoman.
Not to outdo herself, Kalani also finished third in the Under 12s surf race, and second in the Under 13s board relay with Lennox Head nipper Oliver Sharpe
Ives said the Ironwoman title was the best competition she had won.