Surfing’s World Championship Tour star Drew Courtney is confident his Umina club can take out the inaugural New South Wales North round of the Jim Beam Surftag at Newcastle beach on Saturday.

Courtney, the world number 27, will join with experienced club mates Glen Hall, Darren Stapleton, Nathan Shanks and rising teen Hugh Turner as the 2004/05 National champions Umina take on the best clubs from the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Mid North Coast.

Saturday’s competition will be the first time the NSW North round has been run, with clubs from the Central Coast to the mid north coast formerly competing against the rest of the state for the NSW title. Following last year’s event organisers recognised the depth in the northern region and decided to split the state into two zones, making it more accessible to clubs north of Newcastle.

Under the Surftag format five-member teams square off in a relay style event with the top four  teams from theNSW North round progressing through to face thecountry’s best clubs in the Jim Beam Surftag Australian final.

Umina will field the same team as they have for the last three years, except for the inclusion of 18-year-old Turner, and Courtney believes their experience in the challenging Surftag format will help them take the title.

“I definitely think we have the team to win it, for sure,” 30-year-old Courtney said in between training sessions for his assault on next year’s WCT circuit.

“There are a lot of clubs with a lot of depth and I know Avoca and Boomerang Beach will be strong but we’ve got the same team we’ve had for three years as well as adding Hugh and with Surftag experience really comes into it.”

Other clubs expected to face the waves include  McMasters Beach, Wamberal, North Shelley, Norah Head, Catherine Hill Bay, Merewether, Port Macquarie, Tea Tree, Blacksmiths, Frenchman’s and Saltwater.

The Avoca team will be headed by Courtney’s fellow WCT surfers Adrian Buchan (world number 23) and tour rookie Matt Wilkinson, while world number 22 Ben Dunn is expected to lead the Boomerang squad.

All four world tour stars will use the Surftag event as a way to prepare for the rigours of the global circuit and Courtney, who was on the Gold Coast last week to witness world champion Mick Fanning and runner up Joel Parkinson complete a big campaign in the Queensland round of the Surftag , says the training will be invaluable.

“I watched Mick and Joel on the Gold Coast and it was good to see them, especially Mick, keep up a high level of performance throughout the day and through five heats,” Courtney said.

“The Surftag in Newcastle is definitely part of my training plan – you get to practise fast paddling, tactics, getting waves quickly and the running up and down the beach is great for the fitness.”

Apart from winning Saturday’s event with his club and qualifying for the National final, Courtney’s goal for 2010 is to end the year ranked inside the world’s top ten.

The National final is expected to witnesstop ASP World Tour surfers including Fanning, Parkinson, Taj Burrow, Kai Otton, Courtney, Buchan, Wilkinson, Dunn and numerous other elite competitors line up for their beloved clubsat Sydney’s North Narrabeen beach on February13/14.

The event sees five-member teams given an hour in which each individual must catch three waves, with the second being a “Powerwave” worth double points. All three waves for each surfer count in the scoring and bonus points are awarded for teams that finish before the 60 minute mark.

Saturday’s surfing will get underway at 8am and is expected to wind up around 3pm.

The next event in the series will be the two day NSW South event at Cronulla on January 30 and 31.

2010 Jim Beam Surftag Australian Series

23rd Oct           Industry Challenge – Winner: Hurley

29th Nov          Women's Surftag – Winner: North Narrabeen

19th Dec           VIC Qualifier – Winner: Phillip Island

9th Jan              WA Qualifier – Winner: Margaret River ‘A’

15th Jan            QLD Qualifier – Winner: Kirra

23rd Jan            NSW North Qualifier - ??

30/31 Jan          NSW South Qualifier

12/13/14 Feb    Australian Final

The 2010 Jim Beam Surftag Australian Series is proudly supported by FCS, Tracks, Swellnet, Sanyo, Beever and Global Surftag.

For more info go to:www.globalsurftag.com