New scholarship scheme to recognise young rural athletes

Talented young athletes from five rural sports have been recognised in a new scholarship scheme established by the trust behind the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games that take place in Queenstown this Waitangi weekend (6-7 February).

The scheme recognises each individual’s outstanding potential and provides grants of $1,000 towards their ongoing education and development as rural sports competitors. Further awards will be made annually.

The first five recipients of the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games Youth Scholarships are David Cook (New Zealand Arboricultural Association) aged 24 from Nelson; Jack Fagan (Shearing Sports New Zealand), 23 from Te Kuiti; Peter McEwen (New Zealand Axemen’s Association), 18 from Nelson; Lewis Nichols (NZ Young Farmers), 18 from Dargaville; and Wilton Weeks (Fencing Contractors Association of New Zealand), 21 from Feilding.

Steve Hollander

Steve Hollander – Hilux NZ Rural Games founder & trustee

Games founder and trustee, Steve Hollander said this was a major long-term initiative designed to preserve the legacy of traditional sports for future generations.

“We work closely with rural sports associations to stage New Zealand and trans-Tasman championships at the Games so it was a natural decision to invest back into these sports at grassroots level,” he said.

“Each association has looked closely at their younger members and identified those who they think have real potential to perform at a national and international level. The trust board and I feel extremely proud to launch this scholarship scheme and we look forward to watching these five young people blaze a trail in their respective sports.”

David Cook has just completed a Horticulture Level 4 (Arboriculture) at Otago Polytechnic and will now begin work with Nelson Tree Specialists. In its citation, the New Zealand Arboricultural Association said David had already demonstrated a high level of leadership potential and a willingness to play an active role in the industry.

David recently volunteered at the 2015 South Island Tree Climbing Championship and said he ultimately wished to start his own business after gaining knowledge from working within the industry. He is using his scholarship grant to attend an International Society of Arboriculture-approved course in Christchurch next month.

Jack Fagan has already notched up significant victories in shearing competitions. Last year marked his third season in the Open category. Competing in the UK during June and July he won his first titles including the Royal Welsh Open, Southern Shears and the Welsh International Speed Shear at Builth Wells.

Son of multiple world champion and icon of the sport Sir David Fagan, Jack is a respected member of the wool harvesting community in his own right. Shearing Sports NZ said the valuable contribution he is making to the industry make him a very worthy recipient of the scholarship grant.

Peter McEwen was nominated for a Hilux New Zealand Rural Games Youth Scholarship by the Nelson/Marlborough Axemen’s Centre. Just 18, he now competes in Open events in between studying for a Bachelor in Agricultural Commerce at Lincoln University.

The Centre said they nominated Peter for his exemplary dedication, work ethic and participation in wood chopping competitions. They said he is a “fine young man who we consider to be a worthy ambassador for the sport”.

Lewis Nichols won Competitor of the Year at the national finals of NZ Young Farmers’ 2015 TeenAg competition. At previous regional finals he had been nominated to proceed to the next round by judges in almost every category.

The national finals team noted his positive attitude and eagerness to help as well as compete. They said Lewis’ “passion for TeenAg is what really put him above the rest of the nominees”.

Wilton Weeks has just finished studying at Smedley Station and Cadet Training Farm in Central Hawkes Bay. He was joint winner of the 2014 Silver Staples – a new fencing competition for agricultural students – and an impressive third in the Bill Schuler Singles Novice Round at Fieldays last year.

After graduating his long-term ambition is to become a fencing contractor and he plans to put his scholarship grant towards achieving his Certificate in Fencing through training body, Primary ITO. Wilton has been described by fellow fencing competitors as a “good young chap with a real work ethic”.

The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games take place 6-7 February on Queenstown Recreation Ground. The two-day celebration of ‘sports that built the nation’ is free to enter and features national and trans-Tasman championships for traditional sports like speed shearing, wood chopping and Highland Games ‘heavy’ events. Spectators can also have a go at events including gumboot throwing, wine barrel racing, speed hand milking and cowpat tossing.

The Games are sponsored by Toyota, Fonterra, Husqvarna, Jetstar, Line 7, Mitre 10 and Ngāi Tahu Farming with major support from the New Zealand Racing Board and Simpson Grierson.