SHOALHAVEN’S woodchoppers had a string of successes at the recent Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Berry’s Chris Francis finished in second place in the Class 2B underhand event, while Noah Windley from North Nowra took out the junior development event.
Considered by many to be the ‘Wimbledon of woodchopping’ the Sydney show attracts many of the best axemen from Australia and New Zealand and for Francis, just to be a part of it was an achievement in itself.
Francis has always loved woodchopping, but unlike many others in the sport, he did not pick up an axe until the age of 43.
“I’ve kind of wanted to do it since I can remember and it got to the stage where I thought, if I don’t have a go at it now, I might never get the chance,” Francis said.
“Since I started, my ultimate goal was just to make it to a final at the Sydney Show, but to actually get a place is beyond expectations,” he added.
It was a very hotly contested event, with Francis finishing about two seconds behind the winner, but then there was only one second between the next five competitors.
There were a few tense moments while he was waiting for confirmation, but was stoked when he found out he had finished in second.
“The stadium sits about 3000 people at any one time and it’s awesome just to compete in that environment.
“So many things can potentially go wrong, but it’s something you’ve got to try and get out of your mind and concentrate on placing your hits in the right spot,” he added.
Due to his busy schedule, Francis doesn’t get to spend as much time chopping as he would like, but he is hoping to continue competing for many years to come.
“One of the good things about it is with all the handicaps; it’s about chopping to your ability.
“The oldest guy there competing was 80, so if you’re able to stay reasonably fit, you can keep going and I’ll be back for sure.”
In contrast to Francis, who came into the sport later in life, woodchopping is well and truly in the blood of the Windley family.
Noah is a fifth-generation woodchopper and has strong bloodlines on both sides of his family.
“I’ve been a woodchopper all my life, my dad was a world champion and his mother’s dad was an axeman, so Noah really had no choice,” his father Peter said.
Noah was the winner of the under 16s junior development event, while his older brother Jack was a member of the NSW under 21s team, which contested a three-test series with Tasmania and Queensland.
“Noah had been struggling a little bit but he managed to put it all together on the day,” Peter said.
“He’s been slowly improving but he performed well above expectations.
“It’s a very technical sport and in front of so many people it can be a bit nerve-racking, but he handled it all so well.”