The Australian leg of the 2021 Championship Tour has arrived and all eyes are on Newcastle, but what happens after the spray settles in Merewether?
What if, hypothetically, the season ended immediately following the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona? Who would be in the Final 5 and bound for a showdown in the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Lower Trestles?
As always, the WSL's Rosy Hodge and Kaipo Guerrero have all the answers.
So before things get underway Down Under, the dynamic duo just made their predictions for which men and women will be in the top five positions on the WSL Leaderboard after the first stop of the extended Australia leg.
We'll also be checking back in with them during the Newcastle broadcast to see how their calls are holding up, so stay tuned to see how good they really are.
Rosy's Picks For Men's WSL Final 5 Post-Newcastle
Italo's an animal. I mean, he's in quarantine doing those crazy push-ups and stuff. He's arguably the fittest person on Tour at the moment. He's an absolute freak. Then I was watching a few clips of him surfing when he got out and he looked so comfortable. The waves looked a lot like what he's been surfing at home all year. I just feel like right now with his comfort at Merewether, his fitness, versatility and all the energy he has, he's going to be really hard to stop.
The number two slot goes to John John. But I'm saying that with the caveat that John will come up against the lowest seeds of the event and will start off against Crosby Colapinto. Crosby could upset that top echelon. He's got the potential to really shake things up. I think John's going to do really well, regardless, he's been spending a lot of time surfing the sandbars on the North Shore and looks really in tune, but he can't afford to come out sleepy.
Kanoa is like a machine. He's unflappable. I don't think that it matters what the conditions are like for him, he'll just click into that mode. He's a true grinders and can get the job done no matter what. He grew up surfing beachbreaks and has shined in Europe -- look at what we saw during the Countdown Series -- he's definitely not somebody you want to draw in an early round.
The work that Jack Robinson put into like his air game and his beachbreak surfing is going to suit Newcastle perfect. In 2019, he got third there and it was one of his keeper results as he went on to qualify at the end of the year. I think he's going to lean on that competitive experience at Merewether, plus he has a lot of confidence coming into his rookie season. I think he's dangerous.
Ryan is a bit of a passion pick, but the fact that he's from Newcastle is going to be a huge advantage. And I feel like if ever there was an opportunity for Ryan to get into that Final 5 picture, his home break would be a great way to start. A few years ago he went on a magic run in Europe, so hopefully this is the start of another magic run for Ryan that will see him get into the Final 5 on the WSL Leaderboard.
Kaipo's Picks For Women's WSL Final 5 Post-Newcastle
1. Tyler Wright
And number one is Tyler Wright. She looks physically and mentally strong. I think Tyler has to feel like she's unstoppable at the moment. Another motivating factor for Tyler is every time she takes the podium, she gets to speak and she has an outlet for her message and her message being much larger than just surfing. I think that's going to push her over the top -- not to mention the fact that her surfing is looking on point right now. So, I'm going to go Tyler Wright comes out of Newcastle still sitting in the number one spot.
Coming in at number two is Carissa Moore. She's already shown her dominance with outstanding performances at Pipe and the Vans Digital Triple Crown in the heavy waves of Hawaii. But can Carissa translate that straight into a high-performance surfing? What I'm looking forward to in Newcastle is something I've seen in freesurf sessions with Carissa. She has an incredible air game that you don't see very often when she has the jersey on.
For my number three pick I'm going to go with Sally Fitzgibbons. She's number three in the rankings coming into Newcastle. She has a familiarity with this venue unlike anyone else that we're going to see. She's won three events here -- 2012, 2016 and 2019. So, you got to put Sally in your Top Five.
Coming in ninth in the ratings, I think Caroline going to jump way up. At just 19 years old, she's representing the new guard. And then when I look at the last full season in 2019 and her beachbreak results, you can see she won on the Gold Coast at D-Bah. She got second in France and she won in Portugal. Those were the three beachbreak events in 2019 and she finaled in all three with two victories. I think she knows how to do the beachbreak dance and I think she's going to come ready to boogie at Newcastle with her dancing shoes on.
Steph is coming into the event with equal fifth in the rankings. She is the winningest woman on the Championship Tour and she has been consistently in the top five for the 13 years that she's been on Tour. I think she's going to have a comfort level in Australia, and if she's healthy, I think you can count on Steph Gilmore being in the Top Five after Newcastle.