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Rural Games Returns With A Bang

The Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games triumphantly returned to Palmerston North after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-day event at Te Marae o Hine, Palmerston North's The Square, attracted an impressive crowd of about 45,000 people, making it the largest edition of the games yet.

The weekend was packed with thrilling competitions in various rural sports such as wood chopping, coal shovelling, sheep shearing, gumboot throwing, and egg throw and catch. According to New Zealand Rural Games founder Steve Hollander, the quality of sportspeople on display was world-class.

“It was a fantastic weekend for rural sports, and in terms of attendance, Saturday was our busiest day yet.”

One standout performer was Jarna Mihare from Dannevirke, who set a new Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games record in the Stones category of the Sir Eion Edgar Southern Hemisphere Highlander Championship. Mihare's incredible time of 25.43 seconds smashed the previous record by over 15 seconds. Other highlights included:

  • Central Hawke's Bay's Tony Bouskill took out the Speed Fencing Championship, pipping his son Tony at the post and ending his competition-winning streak, which lasted well over a year.
  • Marton's Jimmy 'Superfly' Samuels won the Men’s Speed Shearing Championship, while Gore's Sacha Bond won her first battle against Megan Whitehead.
  • Palmerston North's Adam Miller is the Sir Eion Edgar Southern Hemisphere Highlander Heavy Champion.
  • Whanganui's Daniel Purcell won the inaugural Golden Loader Championship.
  • Taumarunui's Jack Jordan took out the TIMBERSPORTS® Men’s Championship – the morning after being named the Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards Supreme winner.
  • Queensland's Anne Paterson won the TIMBERSPORTS® Women’s Championship, with Tokoroa's Cleveland Cherry taking out the TIMBERSPORTS® Rookie Championship.
  • Ashburton's Craig Manson is the New Zealand Mens Gumboot Throwing champion, while Taihape's Kristin Churchward is the Women's Champion.
  • Team Waikato, Noel Galloway and Steph Dryfhout, took out the New Zealand Speed Tree Climbing Championship.
  • Reefton's Richard Banks Snr. won the Men's New Zealand Coal Shovelling Championship.
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The weekend also featured the Allflex Clash of the Colleges, where 240 students from 10 different high schools from Napier to New Plymouth down to Paraparaumu and Greytown.

The event also included the popular Agri Futures Pathways expo, which showcased the vast range of opportunities available to young people in the future food and fibre sector and what the Mid Central North Island has to offer.

To make navigating the New Zealand Rural Games easier, a new event scheduling app called Wotsonwhere was introduced this year. Attendees were able to create personalised schedules, access maps of the event, and even had a chance to win a Winter Weekend Getaway in Queenstown valued at up to $5500 through the app. The lucky winner, Joanna Wenman of Palmerston North was announced on More FM on Monday morning. Voting will soon begin for Manawatu's Best Mullet Competition via Valley Studios' website and Facebook page.

Overall, the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games was a resounding success, and the organisers greatly appreciated the community's support and attendance.

"With such an outstanding turnout, it's clear that rural sports continue to capture the hearts and minds of New Zealanders,” said Steve Hollander.

The Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games 1-hour highlight programme hosted by Greg O'Connor and Olivia Caldwell:

  • TV 3: Saturday, April 1st, 2023, at 5.00pm
  • TV3: (Easter weekend replay), Saturday, April 8th, 2023, at 9.30am.

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