It is redemption time for the New Zealand sheep dog trial team.
The squad of Neil Evans and Tess of Canterbury, Brian Dickison and Jake of Southland, Leo Jacentho and Tess of Waikato, and Ian Stevenson and Zac of Canterbury, are looking to reclaim the Wayleggo Cup and restore Kiwi pride when the Trans-Tasman Test Series in sheep dog trialling gets underway in Ashburton on October 27.
The Wayleggo Cup, which was first contested in 1994, was mothballed for three years due to covid but resumed in Tasmania last year, only for New Zealand to lose the test series 2-1.
NZ Sheep Dog Trial Association president and team manager Pat Coogan said last year was a tough event, not helped by flight interruptions and flighty Australian Merino sheep.
“We couldn’t get direct flights to Tasmania because of covid restrictions so there was a lot of waiting around,” he said.
Then there were the wayward Merino sheep, which two of the New Zealand team were unable to pen.
Coogan said this year the team is looking to take back the title and add to the 17 tests previously won by NZ.
Evans will captain the team. Dickison, Jacentho and Stevenson are all newcomers to the NZ team but have proven themselves at national or island competitions.
“There are lots of things we look at when selecting a team. The age, strengths and weaknesses of the dog is also important,” Coogan said.
The test will be competed over two days, October 27 and 28, as part of the Ashburton A & P Show.
The competition is conducted over a special course with its own rules, developed specifically for the Trans-Tasman competition and a mix of both New Zealand and Australian rules.
The course consists of four obstacles – a gate, a Maltese cross, a ramp and a pen. Australian rules apply as far as the gate, followed by a NZ drive through the Maltese cross and over the ramp, then back into an Australian carry to the pen.
In the New Zealand sections competitors are allowed to assist their dog more than in the Australian section.
The course must be completed in 15 minutes. There are two judges, one from each country, and their scores are averaged.