5th Pacific Regional Shooting Championships Rifle Metallic Silhouette

On day four, it was the turn of the Rifle Metallic Silhouette shooters to display their skills over 80 shots in each section. In the opening Smallbore Silhouette Rifle Heavy section, the chicken-shaped silhouette targets were set at 40m, with pigs at 60m, turkeys at 77m and rams at 100m. For the lighter Air Rifle outings, the distances were in yardage, with chickens at 20 yards, pigs 30 yards, turkeys 36 yards and rams 45 yards.

This time, there was a full complement of three New Zealand teams taking on a trio of Australian combinations, as well as two Australian youngsters entered as individuals – Melissa Dean (aged 19) and Jordan Jenny Robinson (14).

Robinson hails from Elizabeth in South Australia and was accompanied and supported by her father Paul, who explained how his daughter made her way into shooting. “It all started when we went to a Schutzenfest carnival, which is run by the German Club in Adelaide, in 2010,” said Paul. “Jordan had a go on the shooting range there and she has been shooting ever since.

“We went up to the Para Range and they were very helpful, so we just took it from there. But she’s still learning and doing fine,” he said. Indeed, Jordan has made such progress that she has competed at junior level at interstate and national meets, and sporting the SSAA Para Range’s colors during the Canberra event, she can seemingly only get better.

At the other end of the experience scale stood canny New Zealand shooter Geoff Brewer. The 62-year-old has travelled to compete in Australia so often that he calls our country “a home from home”. “I’ve come here so many times that they can’t get rid of me,” said Brewer. But he also emphasised the serious side of the event when he said “We don’t come here to be second.”

Brewer is based in Auckland and has travelled widely during his shooting career. “I’ve been to America quite a few times and those ‘cowboys’ over there are very good…I went to the State Championships in Louisiana and the American Nationals in 1996 and 1998 – those were magic trips,” he said.

Teenager Dean carried off the winner’s medal in the Smallbore Heavy Rifle Individual section with a score of 72. Runner-up was Australia’s Dann Suthern on 69, from New Zealand’s Nicola Matheson on 65. The teams’ title went to New Zealand A (Matheson and Allan Murray), who tallied an aggregate of 125. Next was Australia B (Anthony Finn and Chris Dale) on 123, and Australia A (Suthern and Alex Brace) notched 118 for third.

Matheson collared top spot in the Air Rifle Individual with a tally of 73. Suthern followed on 68, ahead of Dean on 66. The Air Rifle teams honours went to Australia A (Suthern and Brace) on 133. Second was Australia B (Finn and Dale), whose 128 bettered third-placed New Zealand A (Matheson and Murray).

Dean came out on top again in the Smallbore Hunting Rifle Light Individual section on 72, which saw off Finn’s 69 and Dale’s 64. Australia B (Finn and Dale) was the best team with an aggregate of 133. Runner-up was Australia A (Suthern and Brace), with New Zealand A (Matheson and Murray) managing 115 for third.

For the 3-Gun Individual, Dean walked away with the winner’s medal by clocking a 210 aggregate. Suthern secured second spot with 201, while Matheson’s 198 earned her third position. In the teams, Australia B was the aggregate victor with 384. Next was Australia A, with Suthern in tandem with Dean. Third berth on the ladder belonged to New Zealand A (Matheson and Murray), which registered 365.

Matheson, from Auckland, was pleased with her performance, as she had been battling an acute migraine for much of the event. “You always travel in hope, so it’s nice to win something,” she said. Matheson completes every round of her shooting with a gentle peck on the barrel of her rifle. A rival commented on this ritual and she simply said “You gotta give your gun some love”.

Dean, from Adelong and the SSAA NSW Tumut Branch, had also been hampered by illness, which made her success all the more commendable. She was overcome with an allergic reaction and had to be taken to hospital for tests the day before the action started. “We’re not sure what it was, we’re still waiting for the results of the tests,” she said at the halfway mark.

Dean had been assisted by her granddad Graeme Whatman, a shooting stalwart, acting as her spotter. Les Armitage, one of the range officials who had travelled from Ipswich, explained how a shooter and the spotter can form a unique partnership. “Sometimes, a good spotter can be a real advantage to a shooter,” said Les. “Some are so good they make it look easy.” Armitage also gave an insight into the Trans Tasman fervour. “These shooters have all known each other for many years, which only increases the rivalry,” he said.

Looking at the results, Suthern, of Berridale, NSW, admitted that he sets himself high standards and was disappointed to miss out on top spot in the heavier gun bracket. When asked if he was pleased with second spot, he gave a wry smile and said simply “No, not really…My best chance of winning was with the heavy gun.”

The Air Rifle section threw up extra problems because of the fact that it was spread over two days. So the shooters signed off during a hot, steamy afternoon then returned to complete the task over a brisk, fresh morning as kangaroos bounded around the paddock on the approach to the range. Brisbane’s Anthony Finn took a philosophical viewpoint. “You really need to make the best of the conditions,” he said. “Don’t dwell too much on theory. After all, in golf, Seve Ballesteros only ever used one club when he was a kid, so the story goes. You just have to take things as they come.”

Despite the result hanging in the balance overnight, both teams decided to convene for a social get-together at the Eagle Hawk Hotel. The rivalry was forgotten for a while in a refreshing show of unity. Across the modern, hyped-up sporting landscape at the top level, it would be hard to imagine such conviviality in other codes. Again, Finn had an observation. “We all help each other out,” he said “Even in America where there is a lot more money at stake, the same spirit prevails.”

As the action hotted up and things reached a climax, the teams took time out to honour the Remembrance moment at 11am on November 11 with a minute’s silence in tribute to both countries’ fallen.

When the business was concluded and medals duly handed out, it was left for SSAA Tasmania President and range officer Andrew Judd to sum up proceedings. “It is all about the teams at these championships,” he said. “It is about building bonds between the Pacific countries. We hope we can keep it going into the future.”

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