Rural Games come to Manawatu
The annual Hilux New Zealand Rural Games are a great family weekend of traditional sports and live entertainment and this year they are coming to Manawatu, moving from Queenstown, their home of the first two years.
The Square, Palmerston North, is the venue for the Games which will be held on March 11 and 12 but will kick off with the Running of the Wools in Feilding on Friday March 10.
‘‘We looked at several venues but we were very impressed with Manawatu’s presentation, the ‘can-do’ attitude of the two mayors and their councils and being in the centre of New Zealand’s ‘middle million’ and of a rural heartland worked in its favour too,’’ says Games founder Steve Hollander.
More than 10,000 people are expected to turn out over the two days to watch national and trans-Tasman championships for traditional sports like wood chopping, speed shearing, speed tree climbing and speed fencing.
More than 200 competitors will take part in a number of championship events, several of them national and world champions battling for prestigious titles.
The egg throwing and catching, Highland Games heavies, speed shearing and the revitalised coal shovelling are likely to be among public favourites.
‘‘We’ve rebirthed coal shovelling whereby participants are racing the clock to shovel a ton of coal into a hopper,’’ says Steve.
‘‘It will be tough, but it will be exciting as we’ve got West Coast miners coming up to face off against the Manawatu Turbos and other sportspeople.
‘‘These are young, fit, powerful guys who think they can beat these 50-year-old coal miners, so we’ll see what happens!’’
Meanwhile, the traditional ‘‘heavies’’ event will see the likes of New Zealand strongman Reuben de Jong compete in the caber toss, stones, farmer’s walk, weight over bar plus a gut-busting tractor pull.
As for the egg throwing and catching contest, professional athletes from the world of cricket, athletics, baseball and softball will attempt to successfully throw an egg the furthest and get their teammate to catch it cleanly.
There will also be an attempt for a new world record.
In 2015 the surprise package of ex-All Blacks Jeff Wilson and Justin Marshall took the inaugural trophy with a new New Zealand record of 61.5m, then New Zealand decathlete Brent Newdick brought along his mate Luke Wainui to poach the title with 63.3m.
‘‘The egg throwing catch is an unbelievable event, I’ve seen softballer Tyron [Bartorillo] chuck an egg 81m caught by [fellow softballer] Steven [Ratu], now I need them to do that within this competition to beat the world record,’’ says Steve.
Back on the schedule this year is the sheep dog trials, which will see the best dog handlers from Manawatu and Wairarapa vie for the title.
New to the competition is the New Zealand Harness Racing Gearing Up event, where trainers and drivers must gear up a standard bred horse in the fastest possible time.
As well as the competitive element, the Games will also feature a fun-packed festival programme including live music, entertainment, local food and wine and fun ‘have a go’ events for adults and children alike.
‘‘We’ve got olive stone spitting, apple bobbing, wine barrel racing, hay stacking and even cowpat tossing.
‘‘This weekend is really going to be a doozy,’’ says Steve.
For more details go to: ruralgames.co.nz
Gumbootthrowing is a popular event at the HiluxNewZealand RuralGamesand this year could attractsomebignamethrowers.