HMAS Cairns athletes tested to the limit

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Danielle Britton (author), ABMT Nathan Bolstad (photographer)

Location(s): Julia Creek, Queensland

Topic(s): HMAS Cairns, Triathlon

CPO Michelle Cannon during practice before race day at the the Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival Triathlon in Julia Creek, Queensland. (photo: ABMT Nathan Bolstad)
CPO Michelle Cannon during practice before race day at the the Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival Triathlon in Julia Creek, Queensland.

Three members from HMAS Cairns have travelled the long road to Julia Creek to compete in the annual Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival Triathlon. The result - a weekend they will not soon forget. 

Often dubbed Australia’s toughest sprint triathlon, the event attracts athletes from all over the country and across all age groups. Navy’s attendance at this remote community event provided a unique opportunity for HMAS Cairns members to represent Navy and support the town of Julia Creek, meet the great people in Queensland’s west and Gulf country all while challenging ourselves in the outback terrain and conditions. 

“It’s not often that remote communities get a visit from the Navy, particularly those away from the coast,” said Lieutenant Danielle Britton of North Queensland’s Navy Community Engagement Program.

“A lot of what we do is out of sight for them. We’re always very proud to support our regional communities, whenever and wherever we can. 

“This triathlon was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate our teamwork and athletic ability as well as supporting the outback community of Julia Creek.”

While the recent wet season in Cairns hampered their training, the intrepid Cairns entrants still performed exceptionally well despite the intense heat and swarms of flies. 

Lieutenant Thomas Burns-Wallace placed first in his age group and second overall for males.

Chief Petty Officer Michelle Cannon suffered technical difficulties in her transition from swim to bike but still finished the gruelling triathlon with the third fastest female time for the bike leg. She also demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship through her encouragement of fellow exhausted competitors on the final stretch. 

The members immersed themselves in the outback shenanigans of the festival as thousands flocked to Julia Creek for the weekend. The outback town swelled from a population of 400 to more than 3000.

A member of the ADF Triathlon Club, Lieutenant Burns-Wallace said that, looking back over past entrants, he was “honoured to wear the ADF Triathlon Uniform alongside some really esteemed triathletes.” 

“We all enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole event, being able to meet new people with similar interests and socialise with event participants,” he said. 

Coupled with the recent rains in the region, Julia Creek is now refreshed and ready to tackle another year.