By Kirra Grimes
SHEEP dog handlers from across the country put their skills to the test in Korumburra last week at the annual South Eastern Victorian Sheep Dog Trials.
For the 63rd year running, the Korumburra Agricultural and Pastoral Society, in conjunction with the Victorian Working Sheep Dog Association, hosted more than 100 dogs and their owners from across Victoria and interstate at the Korumburra Showgrounds for three days of competition.
Novice, Improver and Open trials, running from Monday, November 12 to Wednesday, November 14, all required the sheepdog and handler to work to together to herd three sheep through a series of obstacles while abiding by strict competition rules.
And while familiar fixtures including the hard-working team of volunteers behind the scenes and several long-time local competitors returned for another year, this year’s trials also featured a few welcome updates.
These included a newly adapted course, which competitors were given an extra two minutes to complete, and a couple of standout first-time entrants in Moulee Siriharan of Plumpton, who with his dog Poppy won the Novice trial, and Conor McConnell of Wagga Wagga, who came second in the Open trial with his dog Glen.
Aged in his 20s, McConnell’s enthusiasm for the sport was evident as he stepped off the course after his final effort on Wednesday and explained how he’d found his way to Korumburra, a long way from his native Ireland.
The trainee veterinarian took up sheep dog trialling in Ireland and has continued to compete since moving to Australia three years ago.
He’s so enjoyed travelling around to different towns’ trials, he said, that he specially organised a two week on-farm placement – a requirement of his veterinary training – at Berrys Creek to coincide with the dates of the Korumburra trial and two subsequent South Gippsland trials organised by Jean Moir of Berrys Creek and Luke Harris of Dumbalk.
“I teed up my placement so I could compete in all three in a row,” he said, adding that he was happy with his performance at the Korumburra trial, despite a “split second mistake” that cost him the win in the Open final.
“The sheep were good, very even, so everyone had a fair chance.
“I lost some points by sending the dog the wrong way – right when it should’ve been left – but we’ve had a good time.
“For me, the best thing about the trials is meeting people: the social side of it,” he said.
Korumburra A&P Society member Louise Rielly, who’s been at the helm of the Korumburra event for over 25 years, was pleased to see the next generation taking on the trials as some of the older competitors began to hang up their hats.
She hoped to see the sport not only maintain its popularity but attract even greater numbers next year.
“We would love to see more young people getting involved and we’ll be making a few changes next year to encourage that to happen,” she said.
ENCOURAGE: 1. Camilla Shaw & Vaquero Rosie: 71/100 points; 2. Mark Sibun & Bauer’s Jim: 69 points.
NOVICE: 1. Moulee Siriharan & Trewina Poppy: 88 (first round) + 83 (final round) = 171; 2. Ed Thompson & Cosines Smokey: 85 + 68 = 153; 3. Ed Thompson & TK Finito. 76 + 75 = 151; 4. Ken Jelbart & Auburn Schnitzel (owned by N. Williams): 76 + 63 = 139.
IMPROVER: 1. Dave Sharp & Token (owned by Ralph Whitbourne): 89 + 92 = 181; 2. Ken Jelbart & Evlyngra Vern: 85 + 90 = 175; 3. Conor McConnell & Echo Park Glen: 93 + 79 = 172; 4. Jean Moir & Delrae Snoopy: 81 + 87= 168.
OPEN: 1. Barry McKenzie & Roseneath Flo: 92 + 91 = 183; 2. Conor McConnell & Echo Park Glen: 93 + 84 = 177; 3. Michael Deppeler & Deppeler’s Molly: 87 + 82 = 169; Equal fourth Dave Sharp & Token (owned by Ralph Whitmore): 89 + 75 = 164 and Jess McLeod & Morgan’s Nick: 87 + 77 = 164; 6. Graeme Lace & Lyster Sam 3rd: 87 + LS = 87.