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Death of Wallaby Mick Barry latest in spate of drownings

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Former Wallaby and Queensland Reds rugby union player Mick Barry, who famously made his international debut during the controversial 1971 anti-apartheid protest-riddled Springbok tour to Australia, has drowned after being caught in a rip off Currumbin Beach at the Gold Coast.

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The retired ear, nose and throat specialist, 77, was one of six early morning swimmers from the Currumbin swimming group known as the Dingos who were caught in the rip at 5.45am Friday. He was pulled from the water by his friends who realised Barry was not among the group who made it back to shore.

“They realised that the male who died this morning was still struggling so they went back in the water and they pulled him in too,” a Gold Coast police spokesman said. “While they were pulling him in to the beach he suffered a medical episode. His friends and the ambulance attempted to give him CPR, but he was unable to be revived and passed away on the beach.”

Barry, a Marist Brothers graduate who played his club rugby at Brothers, made his first appearance for Queensland in 1966 against New South Wales and was captain for the Junior Wallabies in 1971.

Barry won his first test cap in 1971 at halfback alongside fellow southern Gold Coast local, Geoff Richardson, in the 3rd Test against the touring South Africans at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Barry’s tragic drowning at Currumbin comes as the number of drowning deaths on Australian beaches, particularly among men, continues to climb.

Last month, emergency crews were called to Main Beach on the Gold Coast after a man almost drowned.

A teenage boy narrowly avoided drowning after he ran into trouble while swimming at Bilinga, also on the southern Gold Coast, in August. In 2019-2020 there were 125 coastal and ocean drowning deaths recorded on the Australian coast.

The Surf Life Saving Australia figures for the 12 months to 1 July 2020 represent a 2.5 per cent increase in coastal drowning deaths compared to the previous year, and sit above the 16-year average of 112.

It is the highest number of coastal drowning deaths since 2015-2016 and the fourth-highest number recorded in SLSA’s 16 years of data collection and reporting.

Men are over-represented in drowning statistics, making up 86 per cent of coastal drowning deaths.

Surf Life Saving Queensland recently enlisted the help of Maroons Origin stars in a new campaign this summer warning men aged over 50 were most at risk of drowning at beaches.

SLSQ data shows of the 11 drowning deaths that occurred at Queensland beaches last season, five were Australian men over the age of 50.

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