The Whanganui centre has made a serious bid to take the huntaway dog trial capital of the world mantle off Hunterville.
Hunterville, of course, is at the heart of the Greater Whanganui Region and has long been regarded as the huntaway capital of New Zealand and indeed the world. It is home of the Shemozzle, a rural extravaganza that includes the epic struggle between man and dog versus hill country sheep known as dog trialling.
With the 2018 season coming to an end during May with the North Island championship in TeAute Hawke's Bay, and the South Island and NZ dog trial finals in Blenheim Marlborough, the reputation of the Whanganui huntaway and their masters is growing.
Any dog running in the national finals must first qualify during the club season, run from early February to May, five points are needed to enter an island championship while six points are required for the national championship. And many good dogs fail to qualify such is the quality of so many canines these days.
So here is a remarkable story of a young farm manager from the hills of Mangamahu in the Whanganui hinterland.
Alex Matthews not only qualified two dogs for the nationals, but went on to win both huntaway titles at the New Zealand Championships.
On his way to the two most coveted titles on the calendar, he was top qualifier at Te Aute in the zig zag hunt but was unable to compete in the final due to a family bereavement. He finished seventh in the North Island event.
Two weeks later he followed up with a second and seventh in the South Island championships and after the runoffs his dog Rex had won the NZ zig zag title and Bonnie the NZ straight hunt title. This has only ever been achieved four times in the history of dog trials.
Hot on his heels was Whanganui's Mark Lourie with a fourth placing at TeAute with Klay in the NI championships, third with Bella in the SI championship and second in the NZ with Bella. Fittingly Lourie was born in Hunterville.
Fellow Whanganui centre triallist Dave Stuart and Charm won the South Island zig zag title, were fifth in the straight and seventh in both NZ hunts with Charm and Gus. Whanganui's Josh Brennan was fifth in the North Island zig zag with Rock.
All up Whanganui competitors filled three of the 14 places at the North Island champs, five of 14 placings at the South Island and five of the 14 placings at the New Zealand champs for a total of 13 placings out of a total of 42 on offer at the North, South and New Zealand championships combined.
With 13 centres represented it puts the Whanganui centre at the forefront of the huntaway competition and cements the claim of being the huntaway capital of the world (with Hunterville, of course, at its heart).
To add another twist to the story Lourie's aunt Jacki Williamson was the sculptor commissioned to create the bronze statue of the noble huntaway in Hunterville.