Tasmania played host state for the 2015 SSAA National Junior Challenge with 23 young hopefuls heading to the Glenorchy range from July 3 to 5 in the tussle for honours. The annual event offers aspiring shooters aged from 12 to 18 the perfect stage to demonstrate their sports shooting abilities in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry. And all the youngsters certainly enjoyed their outing across the Tasman Sea as they concentrated on 3-Positional Rimfire, Rifle Metallic Silhouette Rimfire and Field Rifle Rimfire shooting.
The AIF Range is located just five minutes’ drive from the Glenorchy CBD and 30 minutes from the centre of Hobart. It has been in continuous operation for more than 50 years. New targets were purpose-built for the Junior Challenge in order to meet national specifications.
The Freeman brothers starred for Tasmania on their home range, with 13-year-old Laughlan taking out the Under 15 age bracket title and his 14-year-old brother Harry coming third. Sandwiched in between the Freeman pair in the runner-up spot was Keigan Williams, of Mandurah, Western Australia.
Laughlan has been shooting for just more than a year, said his dad Douglas. “He wasn’t expecting to do so well because it was only his first national competition and Harry is actually considered the better shot,” said Douglas. “Laughlan got into shooting through his uncle, Brian, who is an avid shooter. He had done one state competition, but that’s all.”
The fact that the brothers, from the Hobart suburb of Old Beach, were shooting on the range where they are members may have helped their cause. But shooting certainly runs in the family, as last year the Under 15s title was won by their older brother, James, who has just turned 16. “James wasn’t competing this year,” said Douglas, who is obviously very proud of his sons.
Consistency was the key for Laughlan, who grabbed second position in all three categories from a starting pack of eight. He pipped Keigan, who won both the Field Rifle and Rifle Metallic Silhouette events, but was unable to match those stellar performances in the 3-Positional, where he had to be content with fifth spot. Top of the pile in the 3-Positional was the other Freeman brother, Harry. That result, coupled with a third in Field Rifle and fourth in Rifle Metallic Silhouette, was enough to cement Harry’s third spot overall.
Jordan Robinson continued her run of impressive performances over recent years by claiming the 15-18 age group crown. Fifteen-year-old Jordan, from Elizabeth Park in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has shown up well in both junior and senior events since she took up the sport five years ago. This time, she stayed ahead of her rivals by winning the 3-Positional and Field Rifle events. Jordan sealed her success with the runner-up spot in the Rifle Metallic Silhouette.
“I love my sport and the friendliness that the people around me always show,” said Jordan. “The shooting community as a whole have always been very positive.
“The older members are always willing to share their experiences in the field and even give me a hard time in order to encourage me to do better. Because of this, I have picked up a number of awards, including state and national titles. Even the Scouts are now using shooting as part of their organisation with badges handed out. I think it is great to see, learning about using firearms with the safety aspect and high discipline that goes with it.”
Victorian James Davenport, a member of SSAA Springvale in Victoria, was the next-best from the total line-up of 15. He edged out Jordan to win the Rifle Metallic Silhouette and build on second spot in the 3-Positional along with third in the Field Rifle. Third place-getter was Ross Gibson, who had travelled from Lara, Victoria. Seventeen-year-old Ross collected two thirds (3-Positional and Rifle Metallic Silhouette) to add to his fourth in the Field Rifle.
The Glenorchy club’s public officer Shane Bowden stepped into the marshalling role for the whole three days and gave the morning briefings. There was no mistaking Shane’s presence and he certainly looked the part, resplendent in his bright pink garb.
“There was a reason for doing that,” said Shane. “There are so many people running around the range during competitions with various colors on and high-visibility vests that I thought I needed to do something to make me stand out. And I knew I would stand out in pink.
“I got a bit of stick from the members, but it was all good fun. I didn’t want to come across as being over-officious and I think it helped to break the ice. I was happy to concentrate on my duties so that the other officials and range officers could get on with their jobs undisturbed and not be sidetracked.”
Competitors were never in danger of going hungry as SSAA Glenorchy president Denis Bergman and junior vice president Dave McAllister gladly took up the role as caterers for the three days. The Honourable Adriana Taylor MLC, an ex-mayor of Glenorchy, provided the official welcome and opened the range for action.
Shane felt that the whole operational set-up ran incredibly smoothly. “The juniors should be commended on their behaviour, ability and sportsmanship,” he said. “They listened intently to what you had to say at all times. “They were a great bunch of kids right throughout the championship.”
The event would not have been possible without the support of parents, many of whom travelled with their respective sons and daughters to see them in action on the range. Some families took the opportunity to extend their trip into holiday mode with further exploration around the Apple Isle after the competition.
SSAA Tasmania State President Andrew Judd thanked the parents for bringing the youngsters to Tasmania and said they would be welcomed back for any future competitions.
It was all smiles at the end of the fun as the youngsters showed off their medals accompanied by a communal waving of their letters of participation.