A special honour awaits Wollongong City Surf Life Saving Club's 50 Australian and world champions.
The club will hold a major function on Saturday where framed surf caps, inscribed with individualised championship numbers, will be presented to the champions, or family representatives.
During the club's 108-year history, in addition to fulfilling its primary responsibility of patrolling Wollongong City Beach, the "Maroon and Whites" have created an esteemed competitive legacy across all surf sports disciplines.
The program launch allows Wollongong City SLSC to recognise its historic competitive success and also kick-off a program that will recognise future champions.
Two of the club's former champions Kim Hannington and Warren Green, and two of its current stars, Isabella Evans and Milton Stepanovski, are among the 50 champions who will receive the framed surf caps.
Hannington, who was a member of the Australian Junior Surf Team's 1957 winning team and also won the national over 50 Rescue Tube title in 1990, will be presented Cap No 6.
The former club president and life member transitioned to surf boats after his successful swimming career and became a successful sweep.
Now in his mid-80s Hannington still swims daily but you'll need to be at the Wollongong Rock pools at 5.15am if you want to join him.
"I've been in the club since I was a kid, so a long time now. I'm immensely proud that the heritage of our title is being recognised. It's fantastic that the club is acknowledging both our former and current champions such as Isabella and Milton," he said.
Green, who will be presented Cap No 9, was also a member of the Australian Junior Surf Team's 1957 winning team. Some 44 years later he also won the national 60-64 Years Rescue Tube title in 2001.
A Life Member and one of the most passionate competitors in the history of club, Green still swims daily and is the reigning over 80s South Coast Winter Swimming Champion.
"The recognition of our victory means a hell of a lot to me and my team mates. Kim and I are both "Maroon and White" so it is means so much. We swam to our club's second national title and were thrilled to be beat the favoured Bondi team on their own beach. Certainly an incredible memory," he said.
It also means a lot to Isabella Evans, who won the club's latest gold medal after defending her 2022 title with another win in the sprint at Trigg Island just six months ago.
Evans will be presented Cap No 49 recognising her Australian Championships in the Under 13 (2022) and Under 14 (2023) beach sprint.
She is the only female recipient recognised for winning an individual event, and it is anticipated that if her form continues there is every likelihood that additional national victories will need to be added to her plaque.
"I feel very honoured to receive this acknowledgement of my achievements from my club. I feel very privileged to be a part of such a great club," she said.
"I wouldn't be in this position receiving this award without the special coaching of Glenn Beverage. His coaching and guidance has helped me achieve my goals and dreams. Finally, I quickly just wanted to thank my dad. Without his time, support, knowledge and love I don't think I would be able to have achieved what I have done."
Milton Stepanovski will be presented Cap No 50 recognising his Australian Championship in the Under 13's 2km beach run in 2022.
"It's a real honour to be presented with the cap and to now be part of history of the club that I love," he said.
It's been several years now since a few prominent national clubs began recognising their competitive champions by allocating them a cap number.
Recently, the concept was picked up locally at Bulli and Warilla Barrack Point.
Wollongong City SLSC's numbered cap coordinator Michael Jennett said given the positivity generated at these clubs, and the fabric of Wollongong City's story, there was a ground swell of support to do something similar at the proud club.
He said the first group of caps will be presented to family members of the Open Boat Crew who rowed to the club's first national championship win in 1953 at Newport Beach.
Other prominent recipients include SLS Australia Hall of Fame member Bobby Little and individual national surf race champions swimmers Robert Nay, Michael McKeon, Gary Lord and Matt Hiesley.
In addition to their success in the surf, Nay and Lord both represented Australia in still water swimming and were Commonwealth Games champions.
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