Roonka Sprint Training Camp – Murray River SA

Article by Jesse Phillips (coach)

National Development Squad members and other juniors from WA and Australia on the Murray River, SA.
Photos: Jesse Phillips & Luke Haniford
Videos: Jesse Phillips

After 3 solid days of racing at West Lakes, 12 of our WA athletes loaded vans and trailers and hit the road on a 2-hour trip through the Barossa Valley to the desert scape (read: dry, sparse and dusty!) of the Lower Murray Riverlands. Exhausted after some testing weather conditions the 28 strong athlete group (from WA, SA, NSW and QLD) were eager to relax in the Roonka Scout Camp which is nestled on the mighty Murray River. A basic yet comfortable campsite offering a number of outdoor activities on-site with all the limitations which make for an ideal training environment (limited phone coverage and easy access to the water).

Refreshingly it was the lush but rare grassed areas at the camp (which were a hotspot for keeping cool and stretching) along with the dining hall, where several puzzles were completed across the week, which proved to be where athletes recovered between sessions. Non-tech activities, talking and card games were the rage in the home away from home.


Athletes were exposed to daily live-in training camp environments which simulated the daily training environment for national team athletes on tour. The kitchen and dining block were open for athletes to wisely choose the best food options and serving sizes ahead of 2-3 sessions across the day. Dinner cooking and cleanup groups were allocated with all athletes involved in sustaining a strong culture of contribution towards the team. In between sessions athletes decompressed from the race weekend and the session before with foam rollers, trigger balls and mats, though at least early in the week it was the simple art of day-time sleeping which prevailed.

Throughout the week a great deal of quality video was shot of each of the athletes and in most crews which were formed, aiming to enhance teamboat skills and paddler cohesion. Sometimes battling nature became the major challenge of the session, so time was taken to ensure we all smelled the roses, so to speak, by taking a gentle recovery paddle through the Roonka Nature Reserve – small shallow channels off the main Murray filled with gumtrees and submerged tree stumps…we didn’t even lose a rudder! (not on that paddle at least! haha)

A great week, which was challenging at times, but mostly just enjoyable. The Murray River Camp will certainly continue to be an initiative Paddle SA and Paddle WA continue to nurture for years to come, with thanks to Paddle Australia for their support of the National Talent Squad and Pathways program.

The WASPS (WA Sprint Pathways Squad) will be in a training camp 6-10 January 2020 aiming to provide a similar opportunity here in Perth for current WASPS athletes, Paddle WA TID athletes and invited club-squad athletes.