A week with dad and the brothers up from Banks Peninsula is proving more than a family reunion for Hawke's Bay farmer Tom Manson at the National Sheep Dog Championships in Marlborough yesterday.
The top seven in each class at the South Island Championships qualify for the Tux New Zealand Sheep Dog Championships runoffs which takes place at the end of the week at Meadow Bank Farms, Omaka, south of Blenheim.
At the 4pm call yesterday on the second day of the South Island Championships, Manson had all three of his team on the leaderboards.
They spanned the elite of both heading dogs and Huntaways, with four-year-old bitch Pip one of just two first-day performers remaining on the long head leaderboard. By the 4pm call, 104 runs had been completed and Pip's maiden-season litter mates Spud and Buck were on the zig zag and straight hunt leaderboards respectively, with about 150 runs completed on each course by the end of the day.
There could be more as Manson, (who farms his own property near Raupunga), puts the anxious wait to the back of his mind with each of the team still to run on the alternative courses.
Spud should be out onto the straight hunt course mid-morning today, while Buck is headed for a date with the zig zag judge early this afternoon. Pip is drawn to run late in the short head and yard, probably tomorrow.
Manson, (originally from Banks Peninsula), has previously qualified for just four National or North/South Island Championships runoffs. This dates back to a North Island zig zag title in his top-seven debut at Gisborne in 2001, and was followed by a South Island short head and yard title at Geraldine four years ago.
Although Manson won a separate national yard dog title in 2004, he remains determined to collar the symbol of National Championship supremacy - a green tie, after coming fourth in both the aforementioned National runoffs.
Manson said it was "pretty cool" all-round to be on three leaderboards simultaneously for the first time, to be doing it with such a young team, and to be competing with the family from Little River. His father Neill and brothers Sam and Ben are all staying together at a motel in Blenheim. Neil Manson has contested two national title runoffs, and Sam Manson one South Island championships runoff.
Ben Manson, who has twice been runner-up in national title runoffs, qualified this year with two heading dogs and one Huntaway. Sam Manson qualified with two Huntaways, and their father Neill with one Huntaway. However, none had reached the leaderboards by last night.
"I'm getting a bit of a ribbing at the moment," Tom Manson said who is hopeful he will hold his places on the leaderboards with even further family representation, in a week expected to remain fine throughout.
"The weather's been awesome. And I'm stoked."
Manson was heading a North Island domination of the championships, with all seven zig zag places held by teams which had crossed Cook Strait a few days earlier. The short head and straight hunt leaderboards each having just one South Island combination, and the long head just two.
Fairlie trialist Steve Kerr, who has two South Island titles to his name and was second in the 2012 national zig zag runoff, was leading the southern hopes near the end of Day two with Mac on the long head leaderboard and Ben holding rank in the short head and yard.
One pair of first day performers to disappear yesterday from the leaderboards was long head titleholders Bob Bruce and Cheat, of Te Aute, but they still have a short head and yard run to go. Meanwhile both 2018 champion Huntaways and zig zag champions, Dave Stuart and Gus (Ashhurst), and straight hunt champions Vaughan Marfell and Torque, (Masterton), were also out of the running to defend their titles.
Poverty Bay trials legend Merv Utting, bestowed with an MNZM in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2016 and who has three dogs at the championships, kept his eyes on at least a 7th National Championship title with Prince on the short head and yard leaderboard.
Leaderboards at 4pm on Day 2 of the South Island and New Zealand sheep dog championships being held at Meadow Bank Farms, Omaka, in Marlborough on May 28-June 2, 2018:
Long head (104 runs): Tom Manson (Raupunga) Pip; Neville Child (Maungakaramea), Rod; Eric Stringer (Kyeburn), Kav; Jonathan Smailes (Kimbolton), Fig; David Shield (Dannevirke), Clyde; Steve Kerr (Fairlie), Mac; Murray Child (Maungakaramea), Dice.
Short head and yard (82 runs): Steve Kerr (Fairlie), Ben; Leo Edginton (Tolaga Bay), Dave; Graeme Brier (Piopio), Sumo; Chris Baker (Piopio), Eve; Graham Wellington (Wanganui), Rachel; Merv Utting (Gisborne), Prince; Guy Peacock (Dannevirke), Chief.
Zig zag hunt (140 runs): David Scragg (Wairoa), Kate; Allen Irwin (Te Karaka), Chase; Brent Mathews (Dannevirke), Ridge; Jonathan Smailes (Kimbolton), Havoc; Tom Manson (Raupunga), Spud; Adam Roe (Dannevirke), Occy; Scott McRae (Wellsford), Toby.
Straight hunt (148 runs): Joshua Brennan (Rangiwahia), Hung; Justin Wallis (Waikaia), Crump; Colin Bayliss (Gisborne), Bully; Trevor Rumbal (Taumarunui), Thug; Tom Manson (Raupunga), Buck; Rebecca Baynes (Wairoa), Tom; Jamie Shrubsall (Taihape), Stag.