Organisers of the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games will be relieved the event, along with the Allflex Clash of the Colleges, Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards, Westpac Agri Futures and the Rural Golf Challenge, will continue as planned this month.
Te Marae o Hine Palmerston North's Square will ring to the sound of chainsaws and wood chopping, alongside many other farm animal noises, from sheep and horses to miniature ponies and working sheepdogs, for three days from Friday March 12.
The Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games is back and this time there is a heavy focus on youth to lift interest in the booming rural economy and rural sports.
Rural Games founder Steve Hollander said we've introduced several new initiatives like the Westpac Agri Futures careers day and expanded youth-related championships.
"We hope to nurture the next generation of rural sporting athletes and aid those interested in taking up many jobs and career opportunities available right now in rural New Zealand."
The Allflex Clash of the Colleges has also grown, attracting teams from New Plymouth to Napier to Wairarapa and Paraparaumu.
Sixty teams of agri-students will battle it out over 30 modules, including cowshed plant washdown, wool classing, body conditioning scoring, and paper-based modules covering seeds, weeds and fertilisers, and rural sports.
"We've also created the Secondary School Shearing Championships (with a trophy donated by shearing legends Sir David Fagan and Rowland Smith), there'll be a special youth speed tree climbing event, and you will also get to see rookies compete with the axe, saw and chainsaw," said Hollander.
This year, the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® championships will feature at the Games – women, men and rookies will compete over two days for the prime spot of representing New Zealand at the international champs.
The Mayor of Palmerston North, Grant Smith, welcomed the move.
"As it is Palmerston North's 150th Anniversary there is no better way to mark it than the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games," Smith said.
"Our city was founded on the strength of agriculture and food which remains the backbone of our diverse economy today."
New Zealand Rural Games Trust Chair, Margaret Kouvelis acknowledged the organisation had faced multiple challenges along the way.
"With our Australian rural sports athletes staying at home this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, we've had to make some changes," Kouvelis said.
"We have created two battle of the sexes events in the speed tree climbing and sheepdog challenge, and the Southern Hemisphere Highlander Champion will see three big boys from Manawatū take on New Zealand."
VIPs to the weekend include Sir John Kirwan, Tom Walsh, Tangaroa Walker from Farm4Life, TV funny guys Jono and Ben and many more.
"The recent repeated Covid-19 level changes has been a hard thing to navigate. However, we have kept at it with the full support of our naming rights sponsors, Ford Ranger and Courtesy Ford, and our major sponsors Fonterra, Norwood, Stihl and of course, our host city Palmerston North," Kouvelis said.
The Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games, the Allflex Clash of the Colleges, the Westpac Agri Futures and Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards will only be held in Palmerston North if the Covid-19 Level is at One.
ATHLETES & EVENTS
(some events are still finalising athletes)
•Rookies: Harry Hardie, Michael Trow, Brad Pako, Sam Bellamy, Finn Sloan, Cleveland Cherry, Matt Gower, Jordan Thomas.
•Women: Emma Shaw, Karen Corbin, Darcell Apelu, Sheree Taylor, Raewyn Windley, Natalie Paterson, Kylea Heaton, Alma Wallace
•Men: Jack Jordan, Neil Hateley, Kyle Lemon, Chris Lord, Jason Wynyard, Nathan McDonald, David McDonald, Jack Torrington
•Jared Nicolson (Havelock North), John Graham (Ashhurst), Tony Bouskill (Napier), Tim Garrick, Cory Twigley and Haydon Walton (all Gisborne), Troy Brooky and Lomu Paikea (both Te Kuiti), Shane Bouskill (Tirokino) Bradley Fountain (Palmerston North)
Youth Secondary Shearing:
•Feilding High School, Rathkeale College, Palmerston North Boys' High School, New Plymouth Boys' High School, Whanganui Collegiate School
Sam Strahan Memorial Sheep Dog Trial Challenge:
•Women: Jo Waugh, Bex Scragg, Kathryn Oliver, Robyn Stephens
•Men' Paul Evans, Guy Peacock, Bruce Pakinson, Matthew McMurray
New Zealand Gumboot Throw Championship:
•South Island: Anja Luecht, Susan Holdt, Kris Taylor, Kieran Fowler, Richard Jack, Craig Manson
•North Island: Dell Adams, Janey Harrison, Stu McNie, Richard Port, Jack Murrell
Egg Throw and Catch New Zealand Championship:
•Riki Paewai, Kris Richards, Robbie Hollander, Jack Talyor, Brent Newdick, Luke Wainui
Battle of the Sexes Speed Tree Climbing:
•Women: Chrissy Spence (Queenstown), Nicky Ward-Allen (Taranaki), Steph Dryfhout (Tauranga), Sami Baker (Christchurch)
•Men: Dom Ritter (Dunedin), Sam Smith and Zane Wedding (both Auckland), Sam James (Christchurch)
Southern Hemisphere Highlander Championship:
•Manawatū: Adam Millar (current champion), Callum McConachy, Carl Waitoa
•Rest of New Zealand: Reuben de Jong, Craig Manson, Andrew Wain
•Men: Brett Roberts, Ringakaha Paewai, Leon Samuels, Lionel Taumata, Jack Fagan, Digger Balme, Rowland Smith, Jimmy Samuels, Paerata Abraham, Toa Henderson
•Women: Ingrid Smith and Laura Bradley.