FOR the second time in three years, Georgina and Hamish Wallace, Trefusis, Tasmania, have been crowned grand champion title in the 17th Australian Fleece Competition, in Bendigo today.
The prestigious win beat nearly 420 entries in the largest fully measured fleece competition in the world, ranking an impressive 97.1 points, out of a possible 100, for the top title – the highest score in the competition’s history.
“We’ve come from a traditional Saxon superfine flock and we decided in 2009 we needed to make some significant changes with where the wool market was at,” Ms Wallace said.
“We embraced the changes and knew we were going to suffer a couple of years of pain with losing traditional Saxon ram buyers.
“I licked my wounds but at the end of the day it proves we have persevered and we are starting to see some results.”
In 2015, Trefusis took out the grand champion title with a productive ewe fleece.
“To win grand champion for two years in the last three proves that if you believe in what you’re doing and work hard, through thick and thin, you will get there,” Ms Wallace said.
“If you have strong beliefs in what you’re doing, you will succeed, no matter the field you are in.”
Also securing the Most Successful Stud Exhibitor award, Ms Wallace was “thrilled” with the Tasmanian team’s success.
“We’re a small fish in a big pond – to win two years ago was exciting, this year I cried again,” she said.
“To win the grand champion fleece out of so many fleeces is phenomenal - I am thrilled.”
Their win was a close call ahead of fellow Tasmanian exhibitor, Roxford Pastoral, who, with their outstanding Polwarth fleece, won Reserve Champion award, scoring 97 - a mere .1 behind the Grand Champion.
This is the first time in competition history that a non-merino fleece has claimed a major award.
The Tasmanian success continued, with RA McKenzie, “Beltana”, Tasmania, taking out both the Champion and Reserve Champion Commercial sections.
Competition judges, Australian Merino Export Company’s Chris Kelly and Landmark’s Matthew Thomas, praised the impeccable preparation of the fleeces which they said was reflected by the record high points achieved this year.
The judges praised exhibitors for their high level of presentation, particularly the reduction in skirting, skin pieces and brands.
“The effect of these inferior faults can be detrimental to processing performance, and the points deducted are telling on the overall points of individual fleeces,” Mr Kelly said.
With microns ranging from 11.8 to 47.4, competition convener Candice Cordy, Landmark, Bendigo, said picking the winning entry was a difficult task for judges.
“Commercial fleeces again comprised 50 per cent of entries this year, reinforcing the fact that the fully measured criteria is proving beneficial for growers,” Ms Cordy said.
“One of this year’s highlights was the fantastic display of Polwarth and Corriedale entries, as well as a large number of heritage and other breeds including Lincoln sand Romney.”
Almost two thirds of the fleeces on show were donated by exhibitors for auction at the completion of the competition, with proceeds donated to this year’s nominated charity, The OTIS Foundation.
The competition is run by the Australian Sheep Breeders Association, Australian Wool Testing Authority and Landmark, as part of the Australian Sheep and Wool Show.