Andre du Toit won the A grade title at the Kaituna range over Labour weekend. Photo: Peter Jones.

Shooters defy breeze to register good scores

Young South African shooter Andre du Toit, representing the Malvern club, claimed the A grade title at the Marlborough Fullbore Shooting Championship, staged over three days at Labour Weekend.

Forty eight competitors at the Kaituna range had to contend with a weekend of warm nor’westerly crosswinds making accuracy a challenge.

The net result of the conditions was that only 11 possibles were shot over the weekend, Alan White from Malvern bagging three of them.

In A grade du Toit led from the front for most of the weekend to take out the title with 475.33 from Brian Carter (Te Puke) on 473.30 and White on 472.27.

Du Toit arrived in New Zealand two years ago from the Transvaal area of South Africa. He has represented his homeland at under-19 and senior level, shooting for South Africa at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He hopes to become eligible for NZ in time to shoot for this country at the world champs in 2023.

Entry numbers for the annual champs were well up on 2019, due to the strong support of those prepared to travel long distances and the addition of the two new F Classes. Shooters travelled from as far afield as Dunedin, Gore, Te Puke and Hamilton.

The Long Range aggregate was decided using the 900 yard scores with three tied on 185.10, with Carter winning from Ross Mason (Trentham) and Bevan Mehrtens (Malvern).

In B grade Les Marshall (Hawkes Bay) had a comfortable five point margin with 457.24 from Megan Snowden (Ashburton) with 452.25 and Martin Fleming (Ashburton) 452.23.

In C grade Shaun Ellis (Cheltenham) won easily with 435.11 from Brian Hawksby (Ashburton) on 420.18 and John Fleming (Ashburton) on 417.14

The tightest competition of the weekend was in F Open with Ian Hughes (Cheltenham) and Mike Chui (Ashburton) battling for supremacy. Going into the final shoulder-to-shoulder 900 yard match they were four Xs apart. Hughes came out on top, scoring 565.29 to Chui’s 563.27.

In FTR Murray Cook (Ashburton was a runaway winner on 535.21 from Mark Alexander (Malvern) on 506.19 and Les Grimsey (Oamaru) on 502.11.

In the new FTR Classic class Sharon Grimsey (Oamaru) won on 514.16 from Conal Richardson (Cheltenham) on 504.7 and Mike Slade (Kaituna), 502.10.

On Monday afternoon, four club TR teams and two club F class teams fought out the coached teams match.

The Malvern TR team of du Toit, Charlotte Flanagan, Alan White and Chris Kershaw, coached by Bevan Mehrtens and Richard Rowlands, were dominant with all four shooters scoring in the 70s over the 15 shots to win with 283.17 from Cheltenham on 266.5. The only other shooter to better the 70 mark was Megan Snowden (Ashburton), coached by her father John, who top scored the match with 73.2.

In the F Class match the Cheltenham team of Ian Hughes, Shaun Ellis, Conal Richardson and Greg Hayes won with 320.10 from Ashburton on 314.6.

Val Wadsworth, right, with the Marlborough Girls’ College shooting team. From left, Issy Adams, Sara Wiblin and Sophia Wills. Photo: Peter Jones.

Val’s still happy at home on the range

Some Marlborough names have become synonymous with their chosen sport.

One such person is Val Wadsworth, who recently chalked up a half century of service to the Marlborough RSA Smallbore Rifle Club as a shooter, coach and administrator.

Over those 50 years he has represented Marlborough, the South Island and New Zealand numerous times, while coaching many young shooters to national and international level success.

Although he joined the RSA club in 1970, his connection with smallbore began two years earlier when, as a primary school pupil at Wairau Valley School, he first lined up a target in competition.

His reasons for taking up such an exacting sport are simple.

“Well, it was a small country town and there’s not much to do is there?

“Too young for bowls, couldn’t go to the pub to play darts and I wasn’t big enough to play rugby – so what else is there?

“There was a good, strong club at Wairau Valley … some really good shooters came out of there, the likes of Don McClellan, Laurie Moore, John and Ken Anderson being the senior members in those days.

“Then, in 1970, I effectively got poached by a friend of Dad’s [Wilf Collett] who shot at RSA … I still feel a bit guilty about that.”

As he rose through the ranks at RSA, Val was quickly bitten by the shooting bug, although he admits it’s not a pursuit for everyone.

“[The sport] just appealed to me … it’s hard to know what attracts you to it. We get people down [at the RSA range] who give it a go but it doesn’t spin their wheels. It’s a mental sport and you have got to want to do it if you hope to make it to higher levels.”

Val says that chasing provincial and national honours “just wasn’t on the radar” in his formative years.

Simply getting a higher grading for the next year was the goal.

“I remember looking at the Master graders when I was in B or C grade and thinking, wow, those guys can shoot.”

It wasn’t long however before he began to rise through the grades and then began to shoot outside the province.

“RSA was probably a little more social than the Blenheim club, and that was where the likes of Leon and Noeline Griebel, Doris and Geoff Holdaway were shooting … they were travelling away and they took me along as well on some of the competition shoots. Then you get a taste for competition and just keep building.”

His first national representation came in 1989, when he made the NZ Open team after the champs in Masterton. It was a moment he has never forgotten and still stands out as a career highlight, despite wearing the silver fern on many subsequent occasions.

Always keen to give back to the sport, Val has coached up-and-coming shooters for the past 25 years.

Alongside Glenn Harris and Sue Cresswell, Val has mentored the Marlborough Girls’ College team and gets a great thrill out of seeing the young ones coming through and doing well.

Val says there has never been a shortage of students keen to try their hand.

“Because it’s something different … and you can come and try it without having to sign up or buy specialised gear … you can just come along as a casual and try it, we provide all the gear.

“But it has a high attrition rate because, as I said, it doesn’t appeal to everybody.”

Three youngsters who it does appeal to though are the current MGC senior team, comprising 18-year-olds Issy Adams and Sophia Wills, plus Sara Wiblin (17).

On Sunday, the trio competed in the National Secondary Schools Smallbore Championships at the RSA range. The event was meant to be staged in Marlborough but, because of COVID, had to be shot live at different venues.

Val was thrilled with their efforts, especially that of Issy who shot her way into the South Island and national teams.

“She actually top scored the school match with a record score of 298.21, and then was subsequently selected in both the South Island and New Zealand teams … a top effort,” he said with obvious pride.

He admits his sport is facing future challenges.

“The firearms legislation and a lesser acceptance of firearms by a greater proportion of the community have had an impact … this is not a bad sport though, it is a full Olympic sport but we get lumped in with the people who do silly things with firearms.”

On the positive side, Val says the sport offers many benefits when it comes to the development of skills and character.

“There is a lot of concentration, mental application and discipline required.”

As to his own future in the sport, Val is, as usual, understated when he suggests, “I’ve got a couple of years left in me yet”.

Given he is currently the RSA club secretary, Marlborough association secretary and life member, plus South Island Target Shooting Association president, there will be plenty of folk hoping he is involved for even longer than that.

Clinton Whyte won the national B grade title. Photo: Peter Jones.

Local shooters on target at nationals

They may have been small in number, but the four-strong team of Kaituna Blenheim Rifle Club members that attended the recent NRANZ National Championships made their presence felt with a string of top placings.

The champs were staged at the Trentham Rifle Range, with its usual testing conditions. Despite several days of swirling, frontal fishtail winds with fast strength and angle changes the Kaituna members were to the fore, especially on the long ranges of 800, 900 and 1000 yards.

The Masefield Belt, the lead-up championship to the nationals, was won by Marlborough shooting stalwart Malcolm Dodson who scored 198.14 to take the coveted title from Clevedon’s Johan Du Toit on 196.22.

The national B grade title was taken out by Clinton Whyte, on 461.32, while David Dick finished fourth on 458.27. Both Whyte and Dick finished strongly at the last difficult 1000 yard distance to clinch their top placings, Dick top scoring the whole range with 48.3.

Teenager Jacob Morriss had a similarly strong finish at the last range to clinch second place in C grade on 452.23, just behind Te Puke’s Samantha Riddle on 458.37.

In the A grade championship Dodson finished second on 482.43, behind Australian David Black with 486.41 and ahead of Malvern’s Allan White on 481.55.

In the final 15-shot match at 900 yards to decide the Ballinger Belt, Dodson slipped back to third,  Black winning the battle of the colours to claim the prestigious Belt from White.

Kaituna wind coach Malcolm Dodson adjusts the setting on junior shooter Clinton Whyte's rifle during Monday's team shoot. Photo: Peter Jones.

History made on Kaituna range

Victoria McMurdo created history at the Kaituna Rifle Range over Labour Weekend.

The Wellington shooter made light of testing conditions to become the first woman to win the Marlborough Long Range Rifle Shooting Championships.

Her total of 474.36 was 3 points clear of runner up John Snowden from Ashburton with 471.44.

Andre Doyle from Petone was third on 470.33 and local marksman Malcolm Dodson was fourth with 469.37.

The conditions troubled all of the competitors, especially a strong blustery nor’westerly on Sunday. Holding the rifle steady was difficult in the buffeting wind and many shooters lost points from this.

Victoria McMurdo’s smile says it all. Photo: Peter Jones.

McMurdo almost led from start to finish after winning the first range. Some of her closest rivals kept pace for a while but only Snowden stayed in touch until the last range.

Dodson was playing catch-up over the whole weekend after a poor first range score of 43.

The B grade was a very tight competition with only centrals separating the top three.

Jack Cavanagh from Palmerston North won with 460.37, from Daniel Alexander from Malvern on 460.33 and local Clinton Whyte with 460.30.

All three were members of the New Zealand junior teams that contested the World Long Range Championships held in February at Trentham.

Local shooter Jacob Morriss took out the C grade with 431.17.

The FTR class for scope rifles was won by Murray Cook from Asburton with Geoff Smith from Masterton second.

Regan Cowe, left, and Bill Stevenson shot well during the Inter-Island match. Photo: David James.

Smallbore shooters maintain momentum

Marlborough’s smallbore shooters made their presence well and truly felt during the annual Inter-Island match at Hutt Valley on August 17-18.

Six shooters from Marlborough took aim at the many awards and accolades on offer, representing the Mainland with distinction.

Val Wadsworth and Bill Stevenson competed in the open, men’s and veterans teams, Simon Senior and Kim Bishell were part of the veterans team, Regan Cowe featured in the open and men’s teams while Ryan Harris was a member of the junior line-up.

Wadsworth had a highly-successful weekend. He top scored the veterans match with 395.17 on Saturday, resulting in him being named as captain of the New Zealand team which shot postal cards against English Home Counties on Sunday.

He again top scored the team in that match with 298. In the men’s match he scored 392.21, missing selection in the NZ men’s team, then scored 395.20 in the open match, gaining selection in the NZ open team where he scored 390.

Cowe also had a successful weekend, scoring 394.21 in the men’s Inter-Island match and 396.24 in the open match, gaining selection in both those NZ teams, where he scored 293 and 391 respectively.

Stevenson shot well in the veterans and men’s matches scoring 388.12, 393.17, and narrowly missing selection for those two NZ teams.  In the open match he scored 385.18, but then bounced back in the derby match on Sunday for those shooters not in NZ teams, scoring 298 to finish second.

Bishell scored 387.16 in the veteran’s match, only a point away from selection in the NZ veterans team and 295 in the derby match.

Senior scored 385.11 in the veterans match and 286 in the derby match, while Harris registered 379.8 in the junior match and 291 in the derby match.