With Billy Moore’s famous “Queenslander” call ringing in their ears, the Maroons have won back Australian triathlon’s coveted State of Origin Mixed Team Relay crown in Devonport today.
The Queensland No 1 team, led off by Tokyo Olympian Matt Hauser, never faulted with Sophie Malowiecki, Matt Roberts and Milan Agnew running away with the victory from NSW and the Queensland No 2 team in an event that attracted 17 teams.
Each team member is required to complete a “super sprint” triathlon of a 300m swim, a 5.8km bike ride and a 1.5km run with today’s swim in the surf off the Devonport Surf Lifesaving Club.
Hauser and Charlie Quin (QLD No2) led off for the Queensland teams, both reveling in the surf race conditions off a pebble stone beach, ensuring the Maroons had good starts with Malowiecki maintaining the lead for QLD No1 before a fired up Roberts gave his team an unassailable lead with a powerhouse third leg.
It was left for Agnew to anchor the Queensland No 1 team, ramming home the advantage in the tricky, wet conditions to take the honours.
The NSW team of Lorcan Redmond (third to Hauser in yesterday’s individual Oceania Cup and Australian Championship race), Matilda Offord (the women’s individual Elite winner yesterday), Luke Schofield and Lauren Kerwick were a fast finishing second.
The Queensland No 2 team of Quinn, Tara Sosinski (second in the Junior race yesterday), Lachlan Jones and Jaz Coventry hung on for third.
But it was the Maroons No1 team who left nothing to chance after losing their Origin crown to the Blues last year with coach Dan Atkins literally flying the QLD flag to spur his troops along.
Victory came after a bonding session last night where coach Atkins showed his teams the famous 1995 “Queenslander” cry from Moore –as he walked down the Lang Park tunnel to face NSW - a moment which has gone down as a pivotal moment in Queensland Origin rugby league history.
Atkins urged his athletes on with the QLD flag, giving it to Agnew who raced down the blue carpet, heralding a Queensland return to the top of the State Of Origin triathlon podium – and sealing the Australian Championship.
“We were beaten last year by NSW and didn’t we know it, the New South Welshmen really stuck it to us led by coaches Mick Delamotte and Mick Ferris so this year I made a point of rounding up the troops early,” said Atkins.
“We put all our efforts into the relay, we bonded with team meetings last night and watched Maroons State of Origin legend Billy Moore in the tunnel before running out at Lang Park in 1995 yelling his famous “Queenslander” call and it resulted in a very proud day, it was brilliant.
“Mixed Team Relays shows team unity that is so fantastic in triathlon now, it’s a new element and brings us closer together and really creates a culture which I think is so important.
“It mixes the Juniors in with the Elites and it’s great to see some of the juniors lead off with the Elites and get a mix of it...that’s where our sport is so unique that they can do that.”
Today’s format is believed to be one of the first events to showcase a change in format for the successful Mixed Teams Relay event that made its Olympic debut in Tokyo last year – with the men swapping starting positions with the women.
The change will come into effect leading into the Commonwealth Games (where Australia is the defending champion), the World Championships (in Montreal in June) and the 2024 Paris Olympics – with the men starting and taking the third leg and the women the second and final legs.
“This change in format could well be the first time across the world but certainly in Australia and it adds a new dynamic and allows the boys to lead off and lead off hard,” said Atkins.
“I’m excited by the future and the way ahead and the Queensland teams delivered and I think it looks great for the rest of the year for our Australians (at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships).”
Hauser, pumped after his impressive individual race win yesterday, relished the opportunity to give the Queensland team a head start.
“It was so good after Queensland just missed out last year after a strong leg from Brandon Copeland from NSW but we got the job done today, which was certainly satisfying,” said Hauser.
“It was a bit different leading off instead of going second or fourth but we embraced the challenge and took the opportunity.
“I think it will be a good change up in the format with the men leading off coming up to Commonwealth Games and good to practice it out here today.
“Dan certainly gets hyped up at the best of times and it’s good to have him in our corner supporting us and encouraging us along.
“It was a great effort by the team with Sophie, Milan and Robbo – we got it done in somewhat rough and wet conditions.”
And Agnew relished in the challenge, although admitting she was a little nervous.
“It was nice for the guys to give me a good lead, I just had to hold it and knew I couldn’t make any mistakes but it was fun.
“I love doing the relays and Dan was awesome, flying the Queensland flag and he made me grab it on the way in....I had a lot of pressure on but they made it easier for me.
“We have been doing stuff like this in Queensland since we were at school and we’ve always been on a winning streak so it was cool to win it back from NSW.”
1st - QLD 1: Matt Hauser, Sophie Malowiecki, Matt Roberts and Milan Agnew
2nd - NSW 1: Lorcan Redmond, Matilda Offord, Luke Schofield and Lauren Kerwick
3rd - QLD 2: Charlie Quin, Tara Sosinski, Lachlan Jones and Jaz Coventry