Murray Child and Dice did the local sheep dog trial scene proud by winning the New Zealand long head title in the deep south on Saturday.
The pair scored 95 points in the final run off, which combined with their score of 90.5 from their fourth placing in the South Island event (held in conjunction with the New Zealand championship in the days leading up to the national finals run off) was enough to steer them into first place overall, albeit by only 2.5 points.
Local commentator Merv Cameron closely monitored the progress of all the Northland shepherds throughout the eight day event and noted the Dice's win once again underlined that she was the best sheep dog in New Zealand, while her pedigree in coming from the renowned 'Deal' breed showed.
"Dice needs no introduction as she now has two New Zealand titles plus other major wins including the North Island long head at Mangamingi earlier in the month," said Merv. Dice also cleaned up on the domestic Northland circuit earlier this year, collecting an unprecedented 60 points in the process.
It was bitingly cold in Omarama, with temperatures ranging from -6 degrees celsius on the coldest day to 3 at the warmest, the daunting 780m-long long head and pull took a fast running dog over 2 minutes just to get to the sheep, while the merino lambs used at the event proved to be a handful.
"For 11 months of the year these sheep graze the high country areas and only see man or dog at shearing time so effectively they are a wild animal or at least have wild animal instincts," Cameron said. He heard many lots just bolted off once the dog got behind them and if that happened, then the run was over. There were further accolades for the Dice/ Child combination with their selection to lead the New Zealand team in the annual trans Tasman test against Australia in Western Australia in October.
Other Northlanders doing well at Omarama included Harry and Neville Child's seventh place overall in the national long head final (after securing runner up in the South Island event), and Sceata and Scott McRae from Kaiwaka placing third overall in the national short head and yard final (adding to their fifth placing in the South Island event). There was further Far North connection with Broadwood-born Zac Gilmore placing runner up in the national straight hunt with his bitch, Anne, to Taihape's Tim Stevenson with Cruze. Now living at Middlemarch, Otago, Gilmore grew up in Paponga, Broadwood and his parents still live in the area with his mum teaching at Umawera School.
"I would think that this second placing is far and away his best success in trialling," said Merv of Gilmore's effort. Anne missed out on victory by only 0.7 of a point thanks to a "cracker run" by Cruze.
"This will be a trial he will cherish forever."
Elsewhere, Merv Cameron admitted Harry's placing was a huge thrill on a personal level, having auctioned the dog off at the Tux Yarding Challenge in December where he eventually fetched $3,200 off a Neville Child bid.
"I trained Harry and sold him at eight months old and he was all class then," he said. Harry was also of the Deal lineage, being by Richie Coulter's Roy out of Merv's Grace who was Deal's daughter out of a Stuart Miller-bred bitch.
"I'm sure this is the start of many great things to come."
- Overall, 550 working sheepdogs - 268 heading and 285 huntaways - were in action the Tux South Island and New Zealand championships which hosted by the North Otago SDTC at Omarama from Monday to Saturday last week.
All these dogs came from throughout New Zealand and had to qualify from their respective club trials to be able to enter the national champs so represented the very best of the best.
At the end of the initial drawn runs, the top seven dogs became South Island champions and went on to re-run for the New Zealand title where the shepherd recording the highest aggregate from the two runs earning the right to knot the coveted green tie.