New Zealand rural athletes come out on top at Day One

New Zealand rural sportsmen dominated their Australian counterparts in all three trans-Tasman events at the 2016 Hilux New Zealand Rural Games in Queenstown today.

Day one of the second annual Games featured the ANZAXE Trans-Tasman Wood Chopping Championship in association with Husqvarna and Cutting Edge Sport, the NZ Speed Tree Climbing Trans-Tasman Championship in association with Asplundh and Treetech and the NZ Rural Highland Games ‘Heavies’ Trans-Tasman Competition presented by the Caledonian Society of Otago in association with Ngāi Tahu Farming and Line 7. There were team and individual events within each competition.

ANZAXE Wood ChoppingRunning of the Wools 2016

There were also a series of fun ‘have a go’ events for spectators throughout the day plus live music from country pop star Jody Direen and the Running of the Wools, 400 merinos herding through central Queenstown later in the day.

The four-strong team of Kiwi woodsmen – Shane Jordan (Taranaki), Adam Lowe (West Coast), Kyle Lemon (Rotorua) and David McDonald (Pukekohe) – beat their Aussie rivals Kody Steers, Joshua Adamson, Jarrod Williams and David Macintosh in a non-stop relay featuring stock saw, underhand, single saw and standing block disciplines of the ANZAXE contest.

Shane Jordan – a current world title holder – also came first overall with the most amount of points scored in individual events – spring board, stock saw, standing block, single saw and underhand. Jordan, who came second at last year’s Games, says it felt good to win this year. “The poplar was pretty strong, dry and leathery, which made it challenging. It didn’t help with the weather being so hot today, either,” he says.

The NZ Speed Tree Climbing Trans-Tasman Championship saw Kiwi arborist and current overall national tree climbing No.2 Tumai Laybourn beat current NZ No.1 Dale Thomas (both Auckland) in the individual event. The NZ team of Laybourn, Thomas and Andy Neverman (Bay of Plenty) beat Australians Barton Allen-Hall, Anthony McConchie and Mark Gistitin in the ‘black versus gold’ event.

The battle of the strongmen in the NZ Rural Highland Games ‘Heavies’ Trans-Tasman Competition was closely fought, with the Australian team beating New Zealand by a single point, gaining 42 points in total. But it was defending champion, Kiwi giant Reuben de Jong from West Auckland, who took first place overall. His Aussie rival Luke Reynolds came in second place and Jono Macfarlane from Wainuiomata, near Wellington was third. Three athletes from each country competed for points in the caber toss, Atlas stones, farmer’s walk and weight over bar disciplines.

More than 3,000 spectators came to the Queenstown Recreation Ground to watch and participate in iconic rural sports. Have-a-go events included the NZ Speed Hand Milking Championship in association with Fonterra, cowpat tossing in association with Matagouri Meats, gumboot throwing sponsored by Skellerup, the NZ Wine Barrel Racing Championship in association with Mt Rosa Wines (men’s event won by Rod Toi, Paraparaumu, women’s event by Elin Ramgren from Sweden) and the NZ Speed Gold Panning Championship in association with the Gold Shop Arrowtown (won by Amelia Gatward-Ferguson, Queenstown).

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy opened the Games, acknowledging the importance of the primary sector and rural communities. “The primary sector is hugely important to the New Zealand economy. It’s worth $40 billion a year in GDP and if you break that down that’s about $4million an hour. We export to about 150 countries and feed about 40m people. A lot of these sports events here today are typical of what goes on at a farm on a daily basis.”

Hilux New Zealand Rural Games founder and trustee Steve Hollander says today’s turnout exceeded expectations for the event’s second year. “We’ve had fantastic support from spectators, the weather was perfect and we’ve seen brilliant performances by all competitors – professionals and spectators alike. We can’t wait for another huge day tomorrow.”

The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games continues tomorrow (Sunday) with a full day’s programme including national championships for speed shearing featuring Sir David Fagan and world champion Rowland Smith, gumboot throwing with returning champion and Olympic decathlete Brent Newdick and speed fencing. There is also the Bill Tapley Memorial Cowpat Tossing Championship and an attempt on the world record for egg throwing and catching.