Royal Launceston Show sees 80-year-old woodchopper return for another swing of the axe





Updated

October 11, 2019 12:55:09

Terry Hodgetts has not let his age stop him from having a crack at competitive wood chopping.

“Just motivation and just loving the sport keeps me going,” the 80-year-old, who first competed with an axe when he was 19, said.

“I think the worst thing you can do when you’re up around my age is sit in a nice easy chair — I think you’ve got to be motivated all the time.”

Mr Hodgetts, who has lived most of his life in the rural Tasmanian town of Blackwood Creek, at the base of the Great Western Tiers, competes off a handicap of six and spent a season earlier this year in Northern Queensland.

“The wood’s a bit softer up there and I won four or five chops up there, which was great, ” Mr Hodgetts said.

Most competitive wood chopping events are held at agricultural shows across the country.

Mr Hodgetts’s latest competition was at this week’s Royal Launceston Show, but he said the sport was not the same as it once was.

“It’s really a dying sport,” Mr Hodgetts, who still works five days a week driving a bulldozer and cuts firewood to “keep people warm” in the winter, said.

“The quality of the axeman has fell off a bit too.

“Those days when I was first chopping, you could have 20 axemen in the state that could win the championships. These days we’ve got three or maybe four.

“When I first started chopping, you’d come to the Launceston Show and you’d have 100 to 110 competitors each day, and now we’ve probably got about 30 or 35.”

The increasing cost and lack of access to training blocks is what Mr Hodgetts believes is killing the “fairly expensive” sport.

“To get an axe these days it’ll probably cost you $500 or $600,” he said.

“If you get a bad log you could have bad luck to knock the face out on the first few blows.

“And to be a good axeman you must be training three or four days a week as well.

“It’s a shame we can’t get a few more young ones involved and just keep it going.

“It’s so easy to buy a motorbike these days and find a track somewhere and have a ride around, but to be an axeman and compete up against the best you have to put a lot into it.”

The show must go on, society president says

Mr Hodgetts is one of many stalwarts of the Royal Launceston Show, which has been running since 1873.

The show was going to be terminated in late 2017 due to rising costs, viability issues and low patron numbers, but it has instead been reduced from three days to one, saving the event for now.

Show veteran Frank Badcock first showed sheep in Launceston in 1964 and he has not missed a year since.

“My father showed, my grandfather showed and my great-grandfather showed with different studs over the years,” Mr Badcock said.

“Showing’s been born and bred into us.”

Mr Badcock has handed over “the reins” and ownership of the family’s Fairbanks Sheep Stud at Hagley to his son Chris, but it is still a family affair to compete at the show.

“It’s more social than anything,” Mr Badcock said.

“You can compare your sheep with your mates and meet up with them.”

Mr Badcock said when the show first moved from Elphin to Inveresk in the 1990s more than 200 sheep would be on show.

“In the last 20 years unfortunately times have changed and we’re down to about 60 or 70 now, which is a bit of a shame, but that’s the way it goes,” Mr Badcock said.

Both Mr Badcock and Mr Hodgetts hope the show keeps running for future generations.

“It would be just a shame if Launceston lost its royal show,” Mr Hodgetts said.

“It’s always been a great show and it’s just a shame they’ve cut it back from the three days to the one day.”

The Royal National Agricultural and Pastoral Society of Tasmania, which puts on the show, expects 10,000 people will attend this year’s one-day event.

And society president Jock Gibson said he expected the show to be back next year.

“I can’t imagine us changing the format to anything different from a one-day show,” he said.

“We certainly plan to be around for next year.”

Topics:

rural,

agricultural-shows,

launceston-7250,

tas,

hobart-7000

First posted

October 11, 2019 06:00:16



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