Sport is often considered a family affair, and nothing could be more true for the Child family.
Originally from Maungakaramea, the Child family has competed in dog trials for four generations and the legacy is continued by brothers Neville and Murray, as well as Neville's son, Stuart.
Both Neville and Stuart will soon have the honour of representing New Zealand when they to travel to Nelson to compete in a four-man test team against Australia tomorrow and Sunday.
The pair's national selection seemed written in the stars as at the 2019 New Zealand Sheep Dog Championships in Ōhaeawai in May, the three Childs were in impeccable form, picking up two national titles, two thirds and a fifth.
Neville, a 68-year-old retired sheep and beef farmer who now manages an avocado orchard in Maungatapere, led the way with a win in the short head competition with 6-year-old heading dog Harry, as well as a fifth in the long head competition.
Neville's 44-year-old son Stuart, who is based on a 3237ha sheep and beef farm in Te Anga, Waitomo, picked up two third place finishes in the short head and long head competitions with two dogs Mitch and Brodie, while his uncle Murray took out the zigzag huntaway section with his dog Frank.
It was the fifth New Zealand title for Murray and the third for Neville. However, the celebrations were overtaken by the surprise of both Neville and Stuart being selected for a test team notorious for its exclusivity, at the nationals prizegiving.
"It was pretty special to have your name read out with your father at the same time," Stuart said.
"It's one thing representing your country, but with a family member is pretty cool."
While it would be Stuart's first time representing his country, Neville will be able to draw on his experience from 2006 when he travelled to Australia to compete as part of the same test team.
Sporting history made at national sheepdog trials in Northland
While Neville and Stuart's familial connections were obvious, they were enhanced by their dogs. Harry and Brodie are full brothers and are also descendants of Deal, the dog with which Neville won his first national title in 2006.
Stuart, who had been involved in dog trials for about 24 years, said it was satisfying to see his dogs do so well in competition, but also at home on the farm.
"You're with the dogs all the time so it's just the fine-tuning to go to the next level, but they've got to do the job at home and it comes back to making your day a lot more enjoyable."
The father and son duo will be competing on the weekend under a hybrid of New Zealand and Australian rules whereby they will have 15 minutes to guide a flock of sheep through some obstacles before finishing in a pen, with points docked for things such as pushing the sheep too hard or having them run crooked.
With a big club trials calendar across the country, Stuart said he relished the chance to visit other areas in New Zealand.
"The people I've met, the friendships that I've got, you can go anywhere really and come across someone you know and that side of it I enjoy."
Neville, who started in dog trials at the age of 14, said it was great to see his son follow in the footsteps of generations of Child men.
"It's quite an honour, it's very good for [Stuart] to be so interested and he is quite good, he's the next generation of dog trialists," he said.
Over the February to May club calendar, Neville said he would be away most weekends travelling the country to attend club trials to earn the six qualifying points necessary for the national competition.
While he said it was a big commitment to get to about 20 trials that he competed in over the four-month period, Neville said the atmosphere of a competition was well worth the travel.
"It's usually up some obscure valley and there's no cellphone coverage and no eftpos," he said with a laugh.
"There's only two things that make a good trial - cold beer and good sheep."
Even though he was more used to competing against his son than with him, Neville said it would be great to represent New Zealand with his son and there was plenty of desire to come out on top over the weekend.
"You've got to do the best you can, winning is not everything but coming second sucks."