ICONS OF THE SPORT: Grant Kenny congratulates Shannon Eckstein as the latter wins an eighth Australian ironman title.
ICONS OF THE SPORT: Grant Kenny congratulates Shannon Eckstein as the latter wins an eighth Australian ironman title. harvpix.com

The 16 moments which shaped Coast sport in 2016

THERE were plenty of moments that mattered on the Sunshine Coast sports scene in 2016 but it was the return of The Aussies which really made waves.

The Sunshine Coast Daily reviews the year's action.

AFTER 36 years, the Australian Surf Life Saving Championship made a nostalgic and much-anticipated return to the region. Held at Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and Mooloolaba, the nine-day event attracted more than 7000 competitors from more than 300 clubs. There was more than 400 events but it was the prestigious ironman final which proved the highlight. Amid a packed beach, Shannon Eckstein reinforced his remarkable reputation by winning the title for the eighth time. On the way to the line, he embraced local icon Grant Kenny, who famously changed the face of ironman racing on the same beach in 1980.

IT'S touted by many as the best Olympics campaign by a Sunshine Coast contingent ever. A dozen of the region's athletes went to Rio and did us proud. It was in the pool where they had most success with Brittany Elmslie part of a world-record breaking women's 4x100m freestyle relay outfit. Elmslie and Taylor McKeown snared silvers in the women's 4x100m medley relay while Leah Neale was a silver medallist in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay. Fellow university swimmer Jake Packard claimed a bronze in the men's 4x100m medley relay. Archer Ryan Tyack helped Australia win its first medal of the Games, a bronze in the team event.

THE Sunshine Coast Falcons emerged from the abyss with a remarkable run in the state rugby league competition. After years of woe, the Craig Ingebrigtsen-steered unit forged its way through the Intrust Super Cup, reeling off shock wins over the Hunters in Papua New Guinea and the Blackhawks in Townsville to secure a berth in the preliminary final. The Melbourne Storm-backed team earned a berth in the preliminary final, where it finally bowed out against Redcliffe.

THE Sunshine Coast Lightning was formed. The region's first team to compete in a national league, the netball side was established by Melbourne Storm and the University of the Sunshine Coast, with the backing of Sunshine Coast Council. The club installed a top coach in Noeline Taurua and recruited key players like Australian Diamonds goal shooter Caitlin Bassett. The university-based outfit will start its campaign in February.

THE region's reputation for hosting mass participation endurance events was enhanced with the hosting of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. More than 3000 competitors took to the line for the 1.9km swim, 90km ride, 21.1km event, which went from Mooloolaba to Mt Coolum and west to Rosemount. It proved a thrilling race, with Australian Tim Reed staving off German juggernaut Sebastien Kienle. Holly Lawrence won the women's division.

NOOSA Heads' Jordan Mercer joined her father Darren as champion of the iconic elite summer surf series. The 23-year-old was joint leader, with clubmate Kirsty Higgison, coming into the sixth and final round at North Cronulla but capped off her campaign in style by winning the eliminator event.

COOLUM Beach teenager Isabella Nichols proved she's surfing's rising star by winning the World Surf League world junior championship in Portugal. The 18-year-old beat the defending title-holder Mahina Maeda in 1m surf, locking in 18.30 points. It was the start of a big year for Nichols, who fared well on the Qualifying Series and was a body double for Blake Lively on shark flick The Shallows.

THE Sunshine Coast held its first NRL trial in seven years and it was a thriller. The Wests Tigers edged a second-string Melbourne Storm unit 18-16 at Sunshine Coast Stadium. The victor's line-up boasted the likes of Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses. The Storm, who have an affiliation with the region through rugby league and netball, will play against the New Zealand Warriors at the same venue in February. Upgrades should ensure the stadium can accommodate 10,000 fans for the encounter.

A HOST of Sunshine Coast athletes fared well at the Paralympics in Brazil. Caboolture's Lakeisha Patterson starred. She was Australia's best performed rookie of the Games, clinching six medals. Among them were golds for the 400m freestyle S8 and 4x100m freestyle relay. Cyclist Kyle Bridgwood snared silvers, one on the track and one on the road. Blake Cochrane also earned a silver medal, in breaststroke.

A PROPOSAL for an Isle of Man-style, time trial motorcycle race through the Sunshine Coast hinterland generated plenty of debate. The proposed 47km event had its supporters and its critics before organisers withdrew their event sponsorship application to the council, the proponents unable to provide the necessary information.

IT was a perfect season for the Noosa Dolphins A-grade rugby union side. In a stunning streak, the Brent Timms-coached team won 18 games in a row to claim yet another Sunshine Coast premiership for the club. The Dolphins beat Caloundra 10-5 in a tense decider at Noosa, plagued by seven yellow cards and a send-off.

FOUR countries committed to using the Sunshine Coast as a base in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and Niue are eager to make the most of the region's sports facilities to prepare for the Gold Coast meet.

ASHLEIGH Gentle became the second-most successful athlete to have competed at the Noosa Triathlon, when she won her fourth title. The Olympian reeled in a deficit on the run leg to claim victory at the event, which was hailed as the world's largest triathlon with 8000 participants.

THE longest drought in Sunshine Coast rugby league's A-grade was snapped when Maroochydore won the title. The Swans claimed its first title since 2000 after previous winning coach Brett Winkler returned to the team. It beat Kawana 18-14 in front of ecstatic fans at an upgraded facility.

THE Va'a World Elite and Club (Outrigging) Sprint Championships were held at Lake Kawana, with 35 countries represented. About 3000 paddlers took part in the 10-day regatta. New Zealand competitors were hard to beat, winning 30 gold medals.

THERE were developments and upgrade announcements for sports venues around the region, including Sunshine Coast Stadium, the University of the Sunshine Coast Sports Stadium, Maroochydore Basketball Stadium and Maroochydore Rugby League Grounds. There was also support for a Kawana sports hub.

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