The 2017 SSAA National Sporting Clays Championships were this year hosted by the SSAA Townsville Branch on the state-owned facility situated 20 minutes from the city in North Queensland. The competition was a two-day affair on September 2 and 3, the first weekend of the new season, and could be described as a nice spring walk in the North Queensland bush.
A modest field of 57 competitors, primarily from around Queensland, but with a sprinkling of travellers from Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, were treated to traditional Townsville weather for the entire event. Warm days with a pleasant breeze, cool nights and clear, rainless skies made for excellent conditions for all to explore the natural bushland that nestles around the facility’s regular firing ranges with the common goal of smashing as many targets as they could manage.
Two courses, each of six stations for a total of 25 targets on each course, had been provided by the locals, making great use of the dry creek beds, large mounds, tree-lines, scrub, grasslands and open areas to provide all comers with a variety of challenging yet achievable targets. As is the nature of Sporting Clays, each course presented a smorgasbord of different targets, including variations of color, size, speeds and directions, to the delight of those who were primarily involved in other shotgun disciplines but took the chance to show their mettle on a national stage.
From one end to the other, the 12 stations were spread along a line of about a kilometre, so after traversing through both courses twice each day, everyone was glad to be able to take a break at lunch and then consume some soothingly cool refreshments in the afternoon while the few volunteers worked frantically to tally the scores and prepare the courses for the following stages.
By the end of day one, everyone had been given a good look at what Townsville had to offer, with post-shoot conversation turning invariably to ‘the one that got away’, discussions of favourite and most dreaded targets and some friendly ribbing over the scoresheets. Those scoresheets showed that all grades were going to be hotly contested on day two and bragging rights on a perfect round of 25/25 were still up for grabs.
By the lunchbreak of day two, we had our first perfect round. Townsville local Matthew Baldwin had managed to rack up the 25/25 with his trusty side-by-side, no less. The tension within his squad was palpable on the last station, where on the final two targets Matt managed to hit the same tree twice on each of his first barrel shots, precisely as the target passed behind the trunk. In each instance though, he showed the right stuff and nailed the targets with less than a metre to the ground. The cheers rang out throughout the range and the group were finally free to discuss the feat with Matthew as they returned to the main shed for a well-deserved sandwich.
Immediately after the break, Tasmanian visitor Nick Towns became the second, and only other shooter for the weekend, to obtain the elusive ‘25’ patch.
At the end of the day, it was all smiles as the final scores were tallied and the awards passed on by SSAA Townsville President Michael Norris and Shotgun National Discipline Chairman John Norris. The Overall Men’s High Gun went to Alex Towns, with Ladies’ High Gun going to Zoe Zawara. AA Grade Champion was Aaron Knowles, A Grade was won by Dean Crouch, B Grade by Clint Storer and C Grade by another local, Jason Kenny. Veterans Champion was Craig Phillip and Super Veteran Champion Noel Benson, while William Bosworth and Zed Winkelmuller were the Junior 15+ and Sub-Junior Champions respectively.
The diversity of the competitors proved just how much of a family sport shooting is. There were fathers shooting with sons (with some dads proud to be outshot by their kids), partners shooting together, families gathering from across the country, and friends old and new. The oldest shooter was 75 and the youngest 12, but all came together on a truly level playing field to walk and joke and tell a tale while challenging each other to ‘smoke another one’ and out-perform their last round.
Thanks go to SSAA Townsville Discipline Captain Roy Slater and President Michael Norris who, with the other club volunteers, were able to put on a great event enjoyed by all. A deserved mention to the local Townsville Cleveland Bay Lions Club team, who were on site to provide lunch for competitors on both days. The closing day finished early as Townsville is, for most, a long way from home and so their journeys were then underway.
SSAA Townsville would also like to thank all the competitors for coming along and making this year’s National Championships such a success. The spirit with which the weekend was conducted went a long way to promoting our much-loved discipline among spectators and competitors alike, with many voicing their new-found appreciation for the sport. Congratulations to all.