The final day of the third annual Hilux New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North saw national champions decided in 'sports that built the nation' including speed shearing, coal shovelling and tree climbing plus an attempt on the egg throwing and catching world record.
News of yesterday's action, including Dame Valerie Adams winning the NZ Gumboot Throwing Championship, brought even greater numbers to The Square in the city centre to watch top rural sportspeople and have a go themselves.
Dame Valerie, a Toyota ambassador, was on top form again giving young athletes some throwing tips in the Kids 'n Country cowpat tossing contest and posing for selfies with spectators around the ground.
The day began with the NZ Speed Tree Climbing Trans-Tasman Championship in association with Asplundh and Guardian Tree Services. After two disciplines - a work climb featuring tasks on different branches and a footlock race straight upwards - Australia took the team title with Byron Bay's Terry Boston first, ahead of three-time world champion Scott Forrest from Kawerau, Bay of Plenty.
The country's best female DIYer was then decided with a final test on stage after yesterday's play barn-building elimination round. Hawera policewoman Carly Toiaroa took the 2017 Mitre 10 NZ Women's DIY Challenge title with her mother, Roselle Ballantine from Palmerston North. They nailed pailings onto a fence frame and finished staining just ahead of sisters Rachel Lawrie and Petra Molloy from Invercargill.
Regional rivalry was at stake as sheep dog trials returned to the Games after a year's absence in association with FMG. Mixed four-person teams of the best dog handlers from Manawatu and Wairarapa competed in the main events arena with the local team of Merv Williams, Kathryn Oliver, Don White and Tim Stevenson taking the win.
The NZ Coal Shovelling Championship in association with Northfuels and Kubota had added poignancy with this year's 50th anniversary of the Strongman Mine disaster in which 19 people lost their lives. West Coast miners competed and helped manage the event with individual men's and women's titles going to Tyrell Green and Kylie Banks respectively.
Current and former members of national teams including Black Caps, Black Sox softballers and Black Diamonds baseballers then lined up in the NZ Egg Throwing & Catching Championship presented by Massey University in association with Kubota Eggs.
Final placings saw last year's runners up, amateur athletes Nick Hornstein (Melbourne, Australia) and Robbie Hollander (Dairy Flat), go one better to win the trophy from Central Stags cricketers Bevan Small and Dane Cleaver in second and Black Diamonds Riki Paewai and Taylor Simmons in third.
Wet conditions meant there was no new world record and the New Zealand record, set last year by Olympic decathlete Brent Newdick and his mate Luke Wainui, also remained intact. Finishing off the podium today, Brent had to console himself with a win in the Bill Tapley Memorial Cowpat Tossing Championship held in association with Federated Farmers.
Spectators young and old took part in a series of sports throughout the day. These included fun activities like Toyota Haystacking, Fonterra Speed Milking and kids' tree climbing managed by the NZ Arboricultural Association as well as some Powerco Have-a-Go contests with national titles at stake.
Clayton Ellis, Australian cherry stone spitting champion from Manjimup near Perth, became New Zealand olive stone spitting champion in association with Helisolutions and also finished second in the wine barrel racing championship run in association with Property Brokers Palmerston North, behind local man Paul McClutchie.
Women's champions included Kayla Hyland from Taihape in both the olive stone spitting and cowpat tossing, and Stephanie Hedler from Germany who won the wine barrel racing.
The day, and the Games, ended with one of the blue riband events - the NZ Speed Shear Championship presented by Toyota Hilux in association with Acto, Supershear and Lister.
The ten best shearers in the country including the current and previous world champions Johnny Kirkpatrick and Rowland Smith were whittled down to a thrilling two-sheep final of Dion King (Napier) against Jimmy Samuels (Marton). Dion led throughout to take a narrow win and cheers from an enthusiastic crowd.
Games founder and trustee Steve Hollander said the move to Manawatu this year had paid off in spades.
"Our first two years in Queenstown were fantastic but the welcome we've received here in the agri heartland of New Zealand has been phenomenal. I feel as though the Games have found their spiritual home," he said.
"I'd like to thank everyone who turned up to watch and have a go from Olympians Dame Valerie Adams and Mahé Drysdale to the rural sports stars of the future who had a blast at our Kids 'n Country contests.
"Everyone stepped up this year to take the Games to a whole new level -sponsors, patrons, rural sports associations, event crew and of course our wonderful volunteers who worked tirelessly through all weathers to deliver an amazing Games. See you on The Square next year!" said Steve Hollander.