One of Tony Ellis's first sailing experiences really should have put him off for life. He was only a kid when he went out on a snub-nosed 12-footer with a mate - and almost didn't live to tell the tale.
"We did the best capsize of my life one school holidays off Middle Harbour," Ellis told us. "It was a fresh nor'easter and we did the full Catherine wheel ... head over heel before we hit the wave in front. We had to swim the boat into Balmoral before wandering home. It didn't put me off."
It sure didn't. After first heading south in 1963, Tony is about to embark on his record 53rd Sydney to Hobart, crewing aboard the 63-foot David Gotze-skippered No Limit. No one has made the 630-nautical mile journey more times than the ageless 77-year-old from Manly - and he ain't about to stop. He said: "I have no claims to fame. It's something to do, something to keep yourself fit, something to keep yourself working, something to keep the brain active. I've been hooked on sailing ever since I was a kid and I will keep going as long as they keep asking me."
Tony has seen it all in more than half a century of Bass Strait crossings - from whales to wild storms, snow to sinkings. He's been part of a winning crew twice but rates the 1993 race aboard as the hairiest. "Our hull broke up very badly and it was starting to leak like a soaker hose," he said. "We were one of many retirements that year."
Tony is confident No Limit can this year at least match its seventh-placed finish in 2019 if weather conditions are favourable.
REECE IS THE WORD
Manly junior and current Wallaby Reece Hodge has never forgotten where it all started, giving up his time to put kickers from Forest Rugby Club through their paces last week. Hodge spent two hours at Melwood Oval with a group of around 20 eager players, taking them through the finer points of place and tactical kicking.
The Forest lads, who play in the Kentwell Cup suburban rugby union competition, were blown away by the lesson. "For someone like Reece to give up his holiday time after a long season speaks volumes about the bloke," goal-kicking five-eighth Bailey McAndrew said. "The boys were hanging off his every word and really got a lot out of the session."
Mandy Herring was taken aside after a practice session for junior players at Manly Golf Club and told she was wasting her money sending nine-year-old son Brodie for lessons. "He's mucking around, he's not listening and you'd be better off pulling him out," she was advised back in 2015.
So she did.
Little did anyone know at the time, but the rejection triggered a fire in young Brodie's belly. On Sunday - aged just 15 - the year 10 student from Balgowlah Boys claimed the prestigious Manly Club Championship from a field featuring players three and four times his age. He joins the legendary Jim Ferrier as the youngest player in the club's 118-year history to win the title. It comes just four years after he returned to the game that once spurned him, using borrowed clubs to build his game to a point where he plays off a handicap of just 1.3.
"Originally, I just wanted to get back to golf to beat my brother TJ, but then it all came about getting my handicap lower," he said. "I've only been playing competition golf for three and half years, so I can't believe I'm now club champion up against so many great players."
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