Even the dogs join in Gunnedah's Oz Day

AUSTRALIA Day in Gunnedah was about young and old combining in an annual festival of sport.

It was a day sports organiser John Hickey has seen often, 31 times to be exact, but 2014 was one of the best in his memory.

Starting at 7am with a women’s triathlon, it wound its way through raft and craft racing on the Namoi River back to dry land and Dash for Cashes, Magic Miles at Wolseley Park with some touch football shootouts thrown in to some dog races, more triathlons and then some Splash for Cash races to finish off at the local pool.

It’s a tried and tested formula that Hickey tries to keep simple every year.

And it works – this year better than most.

“We had a great response from the youth of Gunnedah,”  Hickey said.

“And also from some of the retired. 

“They followed us around all day. They gave fantastic support to the kids. 

“Everywhere I went there was someone prepared to help too. 

“It made it a fantastic day for everyone. 

“It made it fun and one of the most enjoyable Australia Days to date.”

He’s been running the Australia Day sports program for 31 years but actually started it 33 years ago with the first triathlons.

“These are the second longest continuous running triathlons in Australia,” he proudly states.

“Even though we’re not registered with Triathlon Australia. We just keep it simple so anyone can rock up and have a go.”

The women’s tri started the day’s proceedings, a race won by Megan Isbester with a 250m swim, 7km bike leg and then a 3km run to finish.

Later in the day the men completed a 300m swim, 9.8km bike leg and 4km run.

They are what is better known as “Super Sprint” triathlons these days.

“We had two new first timers in the women’s this year,” Hickey said.

“And that’s what it’s all about – participation. 

“We try to keep it simple and make it easy for anyone as well as making it enjoyable. 

“It’s about doing the things in a country town that you can do normally. 

“All the things we did when we were kids – swimming in the river or playing footy. 

“The tough shootout only needs a couple and then the dog races are a lot of fun too.”

They were started last year and came about as a result of the famous Great Nundle Dog race.

This year there were divisions such as the Mutt or the Working Dog. 

All had their moments. Canine racers adopting varied tactics and or running the right and wrong way.

Sarah Hickey, John’s daughter and outstanding photographer, had two pups, named after her grandfathers but her partner, Lincoln Stewart, claimed bragging rights when his dog, Max Stewart, poked along down the middle of the track to win his dog race from Sarah’s errant Gunner.

“It was a lot of fun,” John Hickey said.

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