Sweet for a cane­cut­ter’s haul

A tough job re­quires a tough ve­hi­cle, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

ARVESTING su­gar cane is a tough busi­ness re­quir­ing tough men and equally tough gear, like Paul Don­nelly and his Mercedes-Benz trucks.

Don­nelly has been cut­ting cane for more than 30 years and Mercedes-Benz has been his truck of choice for most of that time.

But cane-cut­ting is more than a job to Don­nelly; it’s his pas­sion.

When the vet­eran Queens­lan­der steps out of his enor­mous har­vester he of­ten picks up a knife and cuts cane by hand.

It was com­mon to hand cut be­fore har­vesters came along in the early 1970s, but to­day it’s only done for fun at com­pe­ti­tions such as the re­cent Aus­tralian Hand Cane Cut­ting Cham­pi­onships on Don­nelly’s prop­erty at Dal­berg.

Don­nelly was knocked out in the pre­lim­i­nary rounds this year, but reck­ons he’s still fit enough to match the younger cut­ters who now dom­i­nate the cham­pi­onships.

‘‘Over the years you learn a good tech­nique: you need a bit of power, a good tech­nique and a good cane knife, and away you go,’’ he says.

A car crash a few years ago slowed him a lit­tle, but be­fore that he dom­i­nated com­pe­ti­tions na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

In a long ca­reer Don­nelly has notched up four Aus­tralian ti­tles and sev­eral world ti­tles, beat­ing the world’s best cut­ters in Africa and South Amer­ica.

‘‘I was never beaten in any com­pe­ti­tion in the 1990s,’’ he says.

Cut­ting cane is a tough job, the days are long and some­times hot, the work dirty and sweaty, but he has no in­ten­tion of giv­ing it away even now he’s ap­proach­ing 65.

He’s so de­ter­mined to stay in the busi­ness that he has just bought a new Mercedes-Benz Ac­tros 3244 to sup­port the har­vester in the cane field and de­liver the cane to the rail yard for ship­ment to the su­gar re­fin­ery.

This takes his fleet to five Mercedes-Ben­zes and the orig­i­nal trucks he bought more than 20 years ago are still go­ing strong.

Each car­ries two bins, about 2.5m long with the ca­pac­ity to carry six tonnes of cane.

In a full day, Don­nelly will har­vest about 800 tonnes and in a six-month sea­son he will cut up to 90,000 tonnes.

Choice of cham­pi­ons:

Paul Don­nelly re­lies on his Mercedes cane-cut­ting truck.

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