As a sportsman, farmer Ian McSporran could be described as a bit of a latecomer.

"Close to 72," says McSporran, retired at Kaiwaka, near Bay View, and preparing for the next round of national championships qualifying on Saturday, in the Takapau Ploughing Match.

Adding to the appeal is that next April the championships will also be at Takapau.
He is however a newcomer with a bit of experience, his ploughing going back to Young Farmers Club days in Central Hawke's Bay in the 1960s.

But there wasn't much ploughing going on once he moved to hill-country farming near Wairoa, leaving the pursuit on hold until he retired.


Saturday's event, at a farm off Speedy Rd and within sight of State Highway 2, starts a busy three days, with the Wairarapa Ploughing match on Sunday at Gladstone, east of Masterton, and on Monday the Manawatu Ploughing match near Feilding.

Last weekend McSporran, a New Zealand Ploughing Association executive member, also competed at Reporoa, where he came fourth in his vintage class, saying he made a mistake or two that were picked up by the judges, and which he reckons he won't be making this weekend.

All this leaves little doubt that keeping on the straight and narrow with his orange circa 1948 Allis Chalmers tractor and Reid and Grey trailer plough is indeed a sport, along with being part of a passion for keeping vintage farmworking machinery, with a fleet of mainly Caterpillar tractors from an era spanning more than 30 years, from 1937 to 1968.

Competition ploughing ticks off most of the boxes when it comes to being a sport, he believes, in that it involves competition with rules and a points system, it has traditional origins in which competition of a sporting nature evolved to help enhance the skills needed at work, and it has a local and international fraternity.

It's just two months since he and wife Helen were among a 27-strong New Zealand supporters group backing Kiwi hopes Ian Woolley, from Marlborough, and South Canterbury ploughman Bob Mehrtens at the 2019 World championships near Baudette, Minnesota.

Ploughing matches have been around a long time, a notable example being the Irish National Ploughing Championship, held every year since 1931 and indisputably Ireland's biggest annual rural event, amid a huge three-day trade show with more than 280,000 passing through the gates.

McSporran doesn't aspire to quite the same heights as a competitor. His vintage class isn't contested at world championships, but he is hopeful he will get enough points to be a Southern North Island representative, and contest a national championships for a fourth time.

He did have a win at Timaru last year while preparing for the national championships, and says now: "I wish I was younger and knew what I do know now."


Ploughing starts on Saturday at 10.30am and is expected to finish by 2.30pm.