The stage is set for the 2010 Allphones NSW Surf Life Saving Championships as the State’s surf stars converge on Blacksmiths Beach, Swansea Belmont this weekend.

Almost 4000 individual competitors from more than 100 clubs are expected to take part.

The State’s leading surf lifesavers will test their skills at the annual competition which attracts crowds of up to 10,000 spectators wanting to see competitors fight it out for glory in the water and on the beach.

The NSW Allphones Masters & Open Surf Life Saving Championships will commence with the Masters hitting Blacksmiths Beach on February 25 and their younger counterparts taking centre stage from Friday February 26 through to Sunday February 28.

Last weekend Manly upset Cronulla’s 12-year winning streak by taking out the overall pointscore at the 2010 NSW Age Championships, while Wanda finished second.

For the last two years the overall pointscore winners in the Open champs have been Manly, after stealing the title from Cronulla, and Manly will be frontrunners to secure another victory this year.

It won’t come easy though – Cronulla SLSC is home to some of NSW’s leading surf stars who will be looking to conquer not only the individual events but the team events as well.

Host club Swansea Belmont will be looking to better its great effort last year when it placed fourth overall.

The club has always been at the forefront of the competitive ranks in the Hunter Branch at NSW and Australian Surf Lifesaving carnivals and this weekend will be another massive effort from the club’s workforce and competitors.

This is the final year in a three-year hosting arrangement for the club.

The Open Ironman event is shaping up to be a battle royal, with a number of top competitors ready to race when the gun goes.

Chris Allum, who won in 2007, hopes to make a comeback. His brother Hayden is also a contender and both are current Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman Series competitors. Mark Simpson is also in the mix.

Last year’s winner, Jono Stock, from Manly is back again, as is second placegetter, Kendrick Louis from Collaroy.

Warilla-Barrack Point’s Ali Day is on fire after finishing sixth overall in the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain series at Cronulla last weekend. Hayden White will also bolster the club’s chances in his events.

Josh Blair from Swansea Belmont is sure to give these guys a nudge, after finishing ninth in last weekend’s Round 5 of the KNG series.

The big question is whether Manly’s Naomi Flood can collect a sixth successive title win in the Open Ironwoman event. Her chances are good after last weekend’s third place in the Kellogg’s Ironman series.  She will come up against a tough field of competitors, including local Swansea Belmont competitor Nikki Chapman.

Freshwater’s Alisha Miller and Terrigal’s Amy Nurthen will also be hot on her heels. Last year’s second placegetter Maddison Prior from Warilla-Barrack Point will contest the U19 along with the Open Ironwoman. Tahnee Fleming from Byron Bay will also double up in the U19 and Open events.

On the beach, Queenscliff’s Laura Shorter will carve up the sand in both the Open Beach Flags and Sprint events. Jake Lynch from Newport will defend his U19 Beach Sprint and Flags titles and throw his hat in the ring for the Opens.

From the State’s north, Cudgen Headland will put forward some good competitors, including Rohan Small, Jarrad Cain and Scott McCartney in the individual and water teams events. Sawtell’s Kayla Russell and Sarah Tisdell will compete in Open water events.

Hunter club chances include Redhead’s Stewart McLachlan in the Open Board and Isaac Morgan who has moved up to the U17 events. Hannah Trypas will be hard to beat in the U15 water events. Swansea Belmont U17 chances include Kirsty Waugh in the water events and Emily Chaffey who is contesting the U17 and also taking on the Open Ironwoman event.

The South Coast push will be led by the strong Warilla-Barrack Point team. While great things are expected from Ali Day, Warilla’s Jordan White will defend her U17 Ironwoman crown and also line up for the Open Ironwoman. Bernadette Cardillo, now with Bulli, will compete in a range of U17 and Open beach events.

Central Coast star performers are likely to include: Stephanie Carey (The Lakes) who is taking a swipe at both the Open water events and the Beach Sprint and Flags. Terrigal’s Joanna Baxter moves up from the U19 to the Open events, and Ed Gourley will be interesting to watch in the U19 events. Karlee Nurthen is in form after taking home a swag of medals including U14 Ironwoman at last weekend’s junior championships. She will be back this weekend to have a go at the U15 events.

Cronulla’s Elly Graf will defend her U19 Beach Flags and Sprint titles, as well as be a good chance in the Open events, after the retirement last year of Bulli’s Cara Langendam. Kyle O’Brien from Cronulla will be back to defend medals in the U17 water events. Jessica Lauricella, competing for Wanda, is one to watch in the U17 water events. She was chosen for this year’s High Performance Squad and is in good form. Maroubra’s Tara Coleman performed well in the ski and board events last year.

The Championships will come to a dramatic close on 28 February in what will be a massive day of finals with the pageantry and colour of the March Past up first and the prestigious Ironman and Ironwoman tagged as the events to watch later in the day.

Following this year’s event, competitors will say goodbye to Swansea Belmont and head north for the next two years to Cudgen Headland SLSC at Kingscliff.

Round 1 – IRB Premiership

The first round of this year’s IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) Premiership will also kick off on Saturday afternoon at Swansea Belmont. Water safety crews from clubs around the State will demonstrate their rescue skills in this fast-paced, action packed event.