Tasmanian hopeful on his way to the World Plowing Championships in Ireland
Australia is a country of sports fanatics, although not every game can be watched in your local pub – but that doesn’t mean a niche sport like competitive plowing lacks a large fan base and dedicated.
- Competitive plowing challenges participants to plow the perfect field
- Accuracy, patience and planning are the keys to success in sport
- A young Tasmanian is following in his father’s footsteps by representing Australia at the world championships
Plowers fight to see who can plow a field into perfect rows of clean, straight furrows.
And although the sport is as fast as a tractor, Alison McGee remembers how many people came to watch the World Plowing Championships at Mount Ireh Farm in Tasmania in 1982.
“And until the AFL came to Tasmania, which was only in the 2000s, as a sporting event, plowing held the record for the most attendance on the first day of the contest.”
McGee returned to Mount Ireh in Longford last month to judge the National Plowing Competition.
And among those vying for a tractor triumph was a 19-year-old who will represent Australia on the international stage.
New generation of tractor tradition
Competitive plowing is a centuries-old tradition with ceremony and pomp, from the “blessing of the plow” sometimes performed by priests during competitions to hymns honoring the bounty of the land.
It’s a tradition that runs in the blood of Daniel Gladwell.
His father has competed extensively overseas and it will be Daniel’s turn in September when he travels to international competition in Ireland.
“The ability to go and represent your country, especially for me, is a big thing,” he said.
“You can travel the world and do something you do every day on your farm.”
But it won’t be easy: plowing is an incredibly ruthless sport.
During hours and hours of competition, the plowmen constantly measure their furrows, adjust their equipment and check their progress.
Daniel’s dad, Peter, said there’s not much you can do if you take a wrong step.
“If you left, in this case, a seated rock or a groove that doesn’t match the rest, you can’t go back and play with it and change it with your hands or you’ll be penalized,” he said.
“So if you make a mistake, he watches you all day.”
While Peter knows how heartbreaking a mistake can be, he also knows the exhilaration of a perfectly plowed field.
“There is a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.”
Compete with camaraderie
While Daniel will have his father to help train him in Ireland, he won’t have his own tractor due to the cost of transporting such a big machine.
He will also be in unfamiliar terrain, with different soil types requiring subtle changes in tillage technique.
It will be competitive but not without camaraderie.
“All the plowmen and all the coaches are all in the same hotel, basically. So we always mingle with each other, we all have breakfast and dinner together,” he said.
“You make a lot of friends from different parts of the world and you’ll have a drink afterwards.