MOTIVATED: Former professional Allira Richardson has rediscovered her passion for surf lifesaving. Picture: Max Mason-HubersDRAINED mentally and physically, Allira Richardson walked away from surf lifesaving after almost a decade on the professional ironwoman circuit.
Eighteen months on and the 27-year-old from Forster is inspired in the surf again after her work with the juniors at Cooks Hill.
This weekend, she hopes to return the favour.
Richardson and two-time Australian board paddling champion Stewart McLachlan (Redhead) will lead the Hunter team at the NSW Interbranch titles at Catherine Hill Bay.
Richardson, a former Australian board champion and round winner on the national ironwoman series, will join ex-national youth team competitor Jessica Collins (Redhead) and Hannah Trypas (Swansea-Belmont) in the women’s open line-up.
Coolangatta Gold fifth-placegetter Isak Costello and ski specialist Mark Stowe join Redhead clubmate McLachlan as the open men representatives.
They will spearhead a 42-member Hunter side covering under 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 19 divisions.
For Richardson, the carnival is part of a long road back to competition.
The former Mooloolaba and Maroochydore competitor went home to Forster early last year after finishing 13th in the 2012-13 national series and missing automatic requalification.
After resting shoulder and knee injuries, she moved to Newcastle in February to link with former coach Wayne Whiteman, the director of surf sports at Cooks Hill, and has been working as an assistant nippers coach at the club while starting a veterinary nursing degree.
Refreshed and fit again, Richardson says the move is paying off.
‘‘The Cooks Hill kids are all so dedicated and so welcoming, so it’s been such an easy transition,’’ she said.
‘‘I had some injuries that I needed a long time off to get over, and just mentally, I was just over it a bit. I was a little bit drained and just needed a break, physically and mentally.
‘‘So I moved back home and started coaching, and just working with the kids gave me motivation again.
‘‘I started back just this year but it’s been one of the best decision I’ve made, just coming back and enjoying the sport. I’m just enjoying being back in it and just being fit and healthy more than anything else.’’
After a pre-season setback with bronchitis, Richardson showed she will be a force this summer with an ironwoman win at the Cronulla carnival three weeks ago.
She is hoping to continue that form and lead the way for the Hunter youngsters this weekend.
‘‘I love the kids that I train with and working with them has been inspiring,’’ she said.
‘‘I just really like it, especially being in a team environment. I just hope I set a good standard and I’m a good role model.
‘‘Hopefully I can do everything right, compete to the best of my ability, the results go my way and I can inspire the kids somehow.’’
Richardson and Hunter assistant coach Craig Coates believe the juniors will be the team’s strength this weekend when they try to break a run of fourth-place finishes behind the powerful Sydney branches and Central Coast.
‘‘They give 100per cent in training and I think the Hunter kids are going to cause some surprises,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘We are going in there pretty hard to finally get that podium finish.
‘‘We’ve finished fourth so many years in a row now and to actually knock off one of the Sydney clubs would be unreal.’’
Coates said the forecast of 3.5m to 4m swell from east-south-east could force organisers to switch venues from Catherine Hill Bay to Blacksmiths Beach and a decision on the site would likely be made on Friday.