Controversy erupted as sporting codes throughout the Hunter region called off and postponed events last weekend due to a predicted heatwave.
The Hunter branch open and masters surf-lifesaving championships at Fingal Beach were rescheduled for February 25 after being called off for heat for the first time in the event’s history.
The titles were postponed two days out from competition after a risk assessment conducted by the Emergency Services Officer for the branch championships, Stephen Leahy.
Hunter surf lifesaving chief executive officer Rhonda Scruton said Leahy strongly recommended to the branch to postpone the event.
She said factors he had taken into account were the large numbers of people involved in the carnival, the wide age spread of competitors from teenagers to old masters and limited emergency response services in the Port Stephens area.
“It’s the first time we’ve postponed the event this far out – we’ve called off the event due to surf before, but never for heat,” Ms Scruton said.
The branch surfboat championships still went ahead at Fingal Beach on Saturday but were contested earlier in the day.
“I was worried about the predicted heat and we are about safety,” Ms Scruton said.
“We had a junior collapse at the junior branch titles the weekend before due to heat exhaustion and it’s quite scary.
“A few people are angry but if someone died of heat exhaustion you’d never forgive yourself.
“In masters, we are dealing with older people and we do have a duty of care.”
The Hunter regional Little Athletics championships at Glendale were also postponed and will now be staged at Glendale on February 18 and 19.
All Newcastle cricket was also called off over the weekend.
In one of only a few sporting events to go ahead over the weekend Hamilton secured back-to-back country crowns in the Mick “Whale” Curry Sevens at St John Oval on Saturday.
Hamilton beat Shoalhaven 15-12 in the Country final after leading 15-0. They had earlier needed extra time to beat Kiama in the quarter-final.
In the women’s final, Warringah beat NHRU A 5-0.
To combat the heat, which peaked at 42 degrees, a mist tent, sprinklers and hydration stations were set up at the event.
Surfest continued without missing a beat. Cabarita’s Zahli Kelly won the women’s pro junior and Liam O’Brien, from Burleigh Heads in Queensland, the men’s.
The men’s and women’s main event starts at Merewether Beach on February 20.