The Lion Red Snapper Classic has been running for 27 year and has come a long way since its founder, Tony Brljevich, first conceived the idea of a five-day tournament in 1980. It's now up to the new organisers Srecko and Yvette Urlich to continue the legacy and to take it to its next stage to ensure its success for another 25 years.
Six months after the idea first popped into Tony's head a small field of contestants (by today's standards) gathered on 90 Mile Beach to compete for a major prize of $15,000. Then Mangonui County Chairman Millie Srhoj had the pleasure of presenting the winning cheque to his son Robert who entered the tournament for the first time.
Today the heaviest snapper is worth over $50,000 and the prize pool is valued at a quarter of a million dollars.
It all could have happened very differently. Tony set out originally to find someone else to do the job, and take advantage of what he had no doubt represented a fantastic opportunity to promote the very Far North. The first contest, in 1981, was staged on behalf of the Far North Promotion Society, but that organisation's enthusiasm was not matched by manpower.
In 1982 he tried to enthuse local organisations, but again the response did not quite extend to actually rolling up sleeves and getting the job done. So Tony and his wife Jean did it themselves.
For some years prior to 1981 the beach had been the venue for a major one-day fishing competition, but Tony saw that is was missing out on a golden opportunity to draw people to the Far North. He was convinced that a five-day contest would likely attract visitors nationally for an entire week and would benefit the local business community...he was right!
Each year around 70-80% of the 1,000 tickets are sold outside the local district and contestants are increasingly turning the event into a family holiday rather than Dad fishing while Mum stays at home.
Meanwhile planning of the next event begins the moment the last one is over. Much of that effort involves working with sponsors, whose loyalty (Lion Red has had the major sponsor naming rights for a dozen plus years) speaks volumes about the professionalism of the organisation and the exposure it gives those who support it.
The event has now gained such status that would-be sponsors have begun calling to offer support for a contact which has gained an International Reputation.
The contest has proved to be an exceptionally successful vehicle for the promotion of the Far North, and has put a tiny west coast seaside village on the fishing map literally all over the world. Profits from the contest are forwarded to the 90 Mile Beach Charitable Trust, which distribute to local worthy organisations.
Srecko and Yvette Urlich now look to take the contest to a different level. They have the experience of organising on a large international scale, and the skills needed to continue building on the tradition founded by the Brljevich family, and are excited by the prospect of hosting this World Famous Tournament.
Srecko is Far North born and bred, and has come home after 19 years, with wife Yvette and daughter Aspen, to be part of this event.
"We had been working with the Brljevich family for more than 12 months (behind the scenes) before we were announced as the new organisers at the conclusion of the 25th Tournament in 2006," he said. And with his local knowledge, and Yvette's 15 years' experience of events management on a global scale, he has always been confident that they could take the competition to the next level.
"Our vision for the Snapper Classic is to create a corporate offering that will see organisations taking part in what can only be described as an adventurous incentive, it is a unique tournament that has something for everyone."