Year of the Dragon, as Nambucca River club secures its future

It's been a tough year for our Nambucca River Dragons; it was around this time last year that they last dipped their paddles in the water together.

By January is was finally decided it was safe to get the gang back together again. But many had found other pursuits during the pandemic-enforced downtime.

"And a lot of our members are on shift work in aged care, so they were finding it difficult to commit to the regular training sessions," Dragons Senior Vice President Tom McKenna said.

With reduced numbers, the club was finding it difficult to fill their usual 20-person dragon boat, and the hopes for 2021 were starting to fade.

"But perhaps we could fill a 10s boat," Tom suggested.

The problem was they didn't have one of those.

Dragon boats can cost up to $20,000 new - a price well out of the reach of the small club.

So Tom started hunting for a second-hand boat.

Through sources in the Australian Dragon Boat Federation, Tom heard wind of a boat for sale in Tin Can Bay, Queensland. The price was right, and everything seemed to be coming together.

But if he thought it was going to be calm sailing from there, he had another thing coming.

The rainy mid-January weekend that he and fellow club member Julie Taylor went to go and pick up the new addition coincided with Brisbane's five-day lockdown.

After what can only be described as a trial by ordeal, the Nambucca River Dragons had secured their future on the water. And the new 10s boat had its first taste of the Nambucca River on Sunday, February 7.

Perhaps as a karmic reward for their efforts, news came through last week that the Dragons had been granted a $4K donation from the Nambucca Heads RSL Club.

Tom McKenna with Nambucca Heads RSL Club president Terrie Hyslop

Tom McKenna with Nambucca Heads RSL Club president Terrie Hyslop

"This generous donation enabled us to buy the boat and refit the trailer," Tom said.

"We're only a very small club; our finances are limited to what we can collect in membership fees.

"This club [Nambucca Heads RSL] first provided us with an opportunity to hold raffles, and now this.

To our club, this means the world - it keeps us going and allows us to train consistently.

"And council is in the process of finding secure land for us to have a locked facility - so it's finally all looking good for us."

The Nambucca River Dragons are hopeful that with the wind finally in their sails - so to speak - there might be a few locals willing to jump on board for the adventure.

"We have members ranging from 13 up to 68, and with varying fitness levels," Tom said.

"You can be as fit as a scrub bull or not at all.

"And you can choose to paddle competitively, or just join us on Sundays for some social paddling.

"We're a small club but we're well-known for our ability at regattas. And we attract members from all over the region - Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Walcha."

If you'd like to join the Dragons out on the Nambucca River on Sunday mornings (from 7.30am), then you can get in touch with Club Secretary Janice Hoffman on 0417 274-527, or through their website.

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