When Brett Chamberlant set off to New Zealand as captain of a five-man Australian Sporting Clays team in pursuit of the Trans-Tasman Trophy, little did he envisage that he would have to survive an earthquake to claim the prize. The line-up of SSAA members Brett, Daniel and Paul Lillis, Matt Webster and Shaun Krzus duly returned with the trophy but only after encountering the aftermath of the 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake around the Hutt Valley Clay Target Club, where the competition was held over the weekend of November 19 to 20, 2016, as part of the New Zealand Compak Championships.
For Brett the tale was even more harrowing. While the rest of the team flew directly to Wellington, Brett had decided to jet into Auckland a week earlier and travel with his mate Vinnie Vitale, who was along for the ride as a non-shooter. “We landed at Auckland and drove south the weekend before,” said Brett. “We stayed the Sunday night near Lake Taupo when the quake tremors hit somewhere around midnight but we never heard a thing.
“We thought the people at the hotel were having a joke next morning until they took us out to show us the swimming pool which was half-empty because of all the water that had been sloshing about during the earthquake...They said it had been the largest ever recorded in that region.
“Vinnie is 62 years old and it was his first trip abroad so it’s something he won’t forget in a hurry.”
There was more evidence of the destruction that had been inflicted when the Aussie team arrived at the Hutt Valley club just outside Wellington in the south of the North Island. Club members had to put in stellar work under trying conditions before the shoot to ensure all was ready for the action to go ahead.
“Torrential rain had flooded the front entrance to the grounds only a day before the competition,” said Brett. “As we tried to reach the club on Wednesday afternoon we were turned back as the road from Upper Hutt to Lower Hutt had been cut by a number of landslides.
“But club members worked through the night and the road was open by morning - they really are a very resilient nation of people.”
In the end, the Australians’ dogged journey was all worthwhile as they enjoyed four days of professional and friendly shooting amid testing layouts filled with challenging and technical targets. They competed as individuals as the members competition rolled by on the Thursday, the North Island Championship took over on Friday while the North Island Compak was spread over Saturday and Sunday.
But it was at the back end of Saturday when the serious stuff was on the agenda with the Trans-Tasman Trophy up for grabs. The five-man Kiwi and Aussie teams each fired at 25 targets to be assessed for an overall score out of 125. In the final reckoning, the visitors came out on top with a tally of 114/125 against New Zealand’s 108/125. The New Zealanders had only selected their team based on results from Friday’s events as some of the shooters has not been able to make it to the venue because of the damage inflicted on roads by the earthquake.
Captain Brett assumed the duties of absent SSAA Shotgun National Discipline Chairman John Norris to liaise with his New Zealand counterparts about how things would proceed. “We never had a problem working it all out,” said Brett. “They were a fantastic group of people and we had a great time. The NZCTA representative David Reid was a pleasure to deal with as were the club representatives.”
The Trans-Tasman Trophy had been the ultimate aim, but the Aussies also did well on the Compak ladder. Queensland pair Paul and Daniel fired 185 each over eight rounds of 25 to finish in the top 10. NSW shooter Shaun notched 180 while Canberra’s Matt logged a respectable 174 with Brett, another Queenslander, just behind him with 173 in a large field of 104 starters.
Fellow SSAA member Warren Brown took part as an individual in the Super Veteran class and his score of 152 placed him in the middle ranks.
All in all it was a highly satisfactory outcome to a trip that had literally been a bumpy ride.