Cibilic brushes off WSL Finals 'crumble'

Murray WenzelAAP
Morgan Cibilic has vowed to return better than ever when he chases the WSL crown in 2022.
Camera IconMorgan Cibilic has vowed to return better than ever when he chases the WSL crown in 2022. Credit: AAP

Morgan Cibilic was his own harshest critic after the rookie's shortlived Rip Curl WSL Finals appearance ended an otherwise dream season.

Australia's only male to reach the final five of the WSL's new title-deciding format, Cibilic (9.84 points) was knocked out in the first heat by American Conner Coffin (15).

It left him in fifth overall and with a sour taste in his mouth at California's Lower Trestles despite recording one of the greatest rookie seasons in WSL history.

"It felt amazing (to be in contention), but it would have been good to do well here and I guess if you haven't seen someone crumble now you have," the 21-year-old from Newcastle said.

"I was psyched to have the opportunity to compete here and go for a title and yeah, whatever, we'll brush this one off and move on to next year."

Cibilic was the last surfer to qualify for the Championship Tour this season before he blitzed the Australian leg of the tour, nabbing a third at his local break, fifth at Narrabeen and second at Rottnest Island.

With his cover blown, Cibilic held his nerve with back-to-back ninth-placed finishes to book his spot in the final five after a stop-start season hampered by COVID-19.

Brazil's Gabriel Median held off a strong challenge from countryman Filipe Toledo to win his third world crown and continue the country's stronghold on the men's title race.

Australian women Stephanie Gilmore (fifth) and Sally Fitzgibbons (third) were also knocked out before the final heat, Fitzgibbons' hunt for a maiden title again cruelly shut down in a tight loss to second seed Tatiana Weston-Webb.

Cibilic now heads a growing number of emerging Australian surfers hoping to join Olympic bronze medallist Owen Wright in the mix to be Australia's next men's world champion.

"He should be really proud of himself to come out in such a unique year, to be that consistent and take down big names from essentially obscurity," two-time women's world champion Tyler Wright said.

"No-one saw him coming, he should be stoked and first time in this situation ... the media, attention, fandom that comes with it. It's different pressure.

"It's a shame (to underperform) but he should be really proud."

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