Wingham Rifle Club’s 67th annual open prize shoot was a huge weekend of competition, friendship and fun at the Wingham range.
This is the largest two-day open prize meeting in Australia and is regularly attended by 100 or more competitors. This year was no exception.
Shooters and their families started arriving early in the week. Some came in caravans, others in camper trailers, whilst others booked out the local motels allowing themselves some time to enjoy the area prior to engaging in competition over the long weekend.
While competitors from as far a field as South Australia and North Queensland regularly attend, this year was the first time the club has attracted competitors from Perth.
The fun started on Friday with practice in the morning and a sweepstakes event in the afternoon. The sweepstakes event was shot at the 600-yard range, however competitors were shooting at a 300-metre target – twice as small as usual at this distance. This is a cash prize event with the winners taking a share of the entry pot.
Competition started in earnest on Saturday morning with first shots away promptly at 8.30am. The day one matches were shot at the 400 metres, 500 yards and 600 yards with each stage consisting of 2 sighting shots followed by 10 scoring shots. Best possible score for the target rifle discipline is 50 plus up to 10 centres, while F Class discipline is a best possible score of 60 plus up to 10 centres.
Conditions on the range were good - no wind, no mirage and slightly damp, in short perfect for shooting.
The first match at 400 metres set the tone for what was to come over the weekend with many competitors across all disciplines and grades posting perfect scores, winners being determined by the number of centres.
In target rifle A-grade the first four shooters posted perfect scores of 50 with 8 centres each. Placings went down to count backs on the number of centres with under 25 shooter Mitchell Bailey taking home first place to nudge out his father, and Australian Rifle Team member, Jim Bailey in second and Duncan Davies rounding out the first three placing’s.
Target rifle B-grade also saw the shooters in the first three placing’s posting perfect scores of 50 with placing’s being decided by centres and count backs.
Target rifle C-grade shooters also posted excellent scores of 49, 48 and 47 in the first three places.
Then it was the turn of the F Class discipline shooters, who were so accurate they shot out the centre of the targets!
F Class A-grade once again saw the first three placing’s post perfect scores of 60 with the placings being decided by centres. Daniel Galea from Narromine-Dubbo was the winner with a score of 60 and 6 centres.
F standard B-grade was again dominated by excellent shooting with Aron Horder finishing on 60 plus 6 centres, narrowly nudging out Wingham’s own Chris Barnard on 60 with three centres followed closely by Wingham’s Junior F Class shooter Ronan Moon on 59 with six centres.
Ronan Moon shoots in the F Class discipline and he comes from a shooting family with his parents Wendy and Tony Moon who have been successful target rifle competitors at the highest levels.
Finally, but buy no means least the F open shooters came out to play. On the first range of the day the first six placing’s in F open were perfect scores with placing’s decided by centre count and count-backs. Chris Hodges of North Sydney took home the winning place with a score of 60 with 8 centres.
The stage was now firmly set for a weekend of exceptional shooting and high scores.
Shooters then moved back to the 500 yard range and competitors continued to post perfect scores with placing’s being decided by centres and count backs.
In target rifle A-grade Wingham’s Mal McKenzie and Mitchell Bailey both posted absolute perfect scores with 50 and 10 centres each! This left the scorers in the office with a dilemma – both have perfect scores of 50 and both have shot best possible scores of 10 centres each – how to separate them? The two shooters themselves agreed that Mal McKenzie was the winner on this range as he had a centre, which was scored as a ‘supercentre’ on a count back.
Target Rifle B saw the emergence of David Morton from Port Macquarie as a real threat. Morton is fresh from a clean sweep at the Cessnock one-day shoot where he won every range and was the overall winner in B-grade. There was no doubt that his days as a B-grade shooter are numbered.
As is usual for the Wingham Annual OPM, some of the Sydney schools that support rifle shooting sent teams along. This is an excellent learning experience for the boys, who are able to shoot beside the best and learn from the experience. One such school competitor is Patrick Jacombs from Shore Rifle Club. Jacombs is also fresh from wins at the Cessnock one-day shoot and posted a perfect score of 50 plus six centres on the 500 yard range to take home the win. The boys from Sydney High Rifle Club, who enjoy the camping on the range and the hospitality the Club offers, were also well in contention in Target Rifle discipline.
F Standard A-grade saw the emergence of Daniel Galea from Narromine-Dubbo as a contender posting a winning score of 60 with eight centres, however Wingham local under 21 shooter Declan Heaney shot an excellent stage of 60 with five centres.
In F Standard B-grade Anna Whittemore, who had travelled from Subiaco in Western Australia took home the gong with a score of 60 and five centres.
It was anticipated that Andrew Beavis, the F Open winner for the past two years would return to try for a hat trick, however this was not to be. This left the F Open discipline wide open and David Avery from Cessnock was emerging as the one to beat. This stage saw the first nine shooters posting scores of 60 with placing’s going down to centres and count backs.
The last range for day one 600 yards and the perfect scores continued across the board. By this time the officials in the scoring office were starting to wonder what was in the water – they had never seen so many perfect scores recorded by so many competitors.
So at the end of day one, with three ranges completed it was still anyone’s game in every grade.
The aggregate scores for day one were calculated to the first three placings across target rifle grades A, B and C together with F Standard grades A and B and F Open – 18 podium placings in all nine of those competitors not dropping a shot all day including Wingham shooters Mal McKenzie in target rifle A-grade and Chris Barnard in F standard B-grade.
Sunday dawned and the first shots were away at 8am. Conditions were overcast with occasional light drizzle. Day two competition started with stage one at 500 yards, followed by Stage 2 at 600yards and Stage 3 again at 600 yards but a 15 shot match.
Again, excellent scores were posted across the board with a large number of competitors still sitting on perfect scores after four stages of competition.
The first 10 shooters in target rifle A-grade posted perfect scores of 50, with Duncan Davies unbeatable on 50 with 10 centres.
It was the same in target B-grade with five shooters posting perfect scores of 50 plus centres.
Target rifle C-grade again saw schoolboy Patrick Jacombs win the stage with a solid 49 and five centres. The next four placings in the stage were dominated by schoolboy competitors from Shore Rifle Club and Sydney High School Rifle Club.
In F Standard A-grade Daniel Galea was dominant while local Chris Barnard won F standard B-grade.
It has been several years since Wingham’s Chris Barnard competed in the OPM. He is a tireless worker for the club and is normally found cooking breakfast and lunches on the barbecue Given his red hot form on the local range in recent months members felt his talents on the barbecue would have to take a back seat this year to enable him to compete and no one was surprised at this outstanding scores.
F standard open was the battle of centres as once again almost the entire field posted perfect scores of 60, however David Avery was steadily emerging as the man to beat.
Shooters then moved back to the 600-yard range for the 10 shot match. Weather conditions were holding, and then the wind arrived. The middle of the field were unfortunate to be on the line when winds moved in with flags flying out to 3pm and this put the cat amongst the pigeons for some.
At the end of this stage, shooters took a short lunch break before returning to the 600-yard distance for the final match of 15 shots and two sighters. By now the winds had moved on but the rainy drizzle was starting to set in.
The grand aggregate for Day 2 revealed that identical scores recorded by Duncan Davies and Jim Bailey in Target Rifle A Grade and Andrew Geary and David Morton in Target Rifle B Grade.
This meant that a shoot-off was required in both grades to determine aggregate winner for Day 2 in each discipline. So back to the mound they went. At this point, and after shooting 3 stages on Day 2 both A Grade competitors were on perfect scores of 175 and had 29 centres each. Whilst the two B Grade shooters were only one point behind on totals of 174 and 23 centres each.
By the end of the shoot-off Duncan Davies and Wingham’s Andrew Geary emerged as the Day 2 Aggregate winners in their respective grades.
By now the rain was starting to set in so competitors retired to the Clubhouse to await the announcement of the Grand Aggregate winners.
The Wingham Clubhouse is named after Norm Calvert who was the Club Captain from early 1950’s to 1980. On Sunday afternoon the Club was honoured have his Grandaughter Tracey Calvert present the prizes to the Grand Aggregate winners.
After two days of shooting, across 6 stages the final winners were:
Jim Bailey / Australian Rifle Team / 325.54
Duncan Davies / West Wallsend / 325.53
Mal McKenzie / Wingham Rifle Club / 325.46
David Morton / Port Macquarie Rifle Club / 324.43
Wentan Ruan / Sydney High School Rifle Club / 321.32
Andrew Geary / Wingham Rifle Club / 320.35
Patrick Jacombs / Shore Rifle Club / 317.29
Alex MacAuley / Shore Rifle Cub / 310.22
Andrew Lui / Sydney High School Rifle Club / 304.22
Daniel Galea / Narromine-Dubbo Rifle Club / 389.40
Bob Pedersen / Wodonga Rifle Club / 389.33
Peter Walter / Roseville Rifle Club / 387.43
Chris Barnard / Wingham Rifle Club / 383.30
Aron Horder / Narromine-Dubbo Rifle Club / 378.33
Anna Whittemore / Subiaco Rifle Club / 378.21
David Avery / Cessnock Rifle Club / 389.43
Derry Crisp / Armidale Rifle Club / 389.39
John Peters / Cessnock Rifle Club / 388.38