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[PRESS RELEASE] Who wool take top spot? Nation’s best young fleece judges to shine at Launceston Royal Show

Announcement posted by Writers Who 20 Sep 2023

Agricultural Shows Australia to celebrate top of the flock in fleece judging

Australia's most promising judges of Merino fleece have been announced by Agricultural Shows Australia as eligible to compete in the national finals of the prestigious annual competition to be judged in October.


The competition brings together the best young judges and paraders aged from 15 to 25 in each state to compete at the national finals. Qualification is via success in competitive regional and state competitions. One Merino fleece young judge from South Australia, Cody Jones, will be competing in an unprecedented four events; meat sheep breeds, Merino fleece, Merino sheep, and poultry.


The national championships are held in a different location each year. This year, the event is being hosted by Tasmanian Ag Shows and held at the Launceston Royal Show. The Merino Fleece Young Judges competition is sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation. The winner of each competition will also take home a pair of boots from Blundstone Australia.



Tess Runting, 24, (pictured below) from Mount Eliza will be representing Victoria in the Merino fleece young judges competition.



"My journey into agriculture started in high school where I had some great mentors and it's come full circle as I'm now a farm manager at Flinders Christian Community College where I'm so lucky to be involved and help students in the same way I was. As a kid, junior judging can seem nerve racking, but I'm able to say to my students, 'I've done it and it's taken me all over the country and given me amazing opportunities'. It's also allowed me to bring back ideas that I now use in my local shows, Pakenham and Red Hill," Tess said. 



Cody Jones, 19, (pictured below) from Leighton will be representing South Australia in the Merino fleece young judges competition.




Cody will also represent his state in the junior judging for meat sheep breeds, Merino sheep, and poultry, becoming the first person to compete at the national level in so many competitions. A woolbroker at Quality Wool, Cody is looking forward to ticking off a personal bucket list goal. 


"It's definitely been on the bucket list to, not only go to Launceston, but to compete at the nationals. The goal is to try and do my best to represent SA to the best of my abilities in all four events," he said. 



Monte Barnes, 22,  from Hay will be representing New South Wales in the Merino fleece young judges competition. 



Monte pinpointed being crowned the champion of the young fleece judges at the 2023 Sydney Royal Easter Show as a highlight.


"I grew up on a sheep property and it was a reward for myself and my father because he's been my main mentor and it goes to show what he knows goes a long way. It's not everyday you get to go to nationals and represent your state so I'm very humbled by the experience and getting the opportunity to fly the banner high for NSW and network with other competitors from each state," Monte said. 



Libby Hardingham, 16, from Murradup will be representing Western Australia in the Merino fleece young judges competition. 


"Winning the young fleece judges at the Perth Royal Show was just incredible and I'm really looking forward to the experience that I know I'll gain from nationals. I've always been in the sheep industry, my dad was a shearer, my mum was a rousie, and my three older sisters all work on farms now so it's always been a part of my life," Libby said. 



Angus Hacker, 20, from Roma will be representing Queensland in the Merino fleece young judges competition. 


"Qualifying for nationals at Cunnamulla was particularly special because both my brother and sister have also done it so it was great to keep flying the flag. I've been involved in junior judging for years and it's so good to see young people in the industry having a go and learning from the diversity of views and being able to connect with other young sheep breeders from around the country," Angus said. 



Sym Hood, 20, from Longford will be representing Tasmania in the Merino fleece young judges competition. 


"My parents got me two sheep when I was seven and I've been sheep crazy ever since. I've always had pointers from my father and also everywhere I've worked and I guess it's one of those things if you're passionate about something you always seem to get good at it. I'm looking forward to bringing home the win for Tasmania," Sym said.



Overall there are nine categories for judging and parading each year under the Agricultural Shows Australia national competition program: beef cattle, dairy cattle, alpaca, poultry, Merino sheep, meat breed sheep and Merino fleece judging, as well as parading competitions in beef and dairy cattle.


The Merino fleece young judges competition is designed to determine who most accurately ranks four fleeces of a similar wool type in order from first to fourth. 


Dr. Rob Wilson is chairman of Agricultural Shows Australia, the peak body overseeing 572 agricultural shows in Australia which attract six million visitors annually and contribute nearly $1billion to the national economy, and says the competition is designed to recognise the best new talent in livestock judging nationwide.


"It's an extremely prestigious event and positions at the nationals are keenly contested," Dr. Wilson explains.


"These young people are the future of agricultural show competitions which are crucial to the continual improvement of Australia's food and fibre. The national competition is a coveted opportunity to grow personally and professionally by practising skills against the cream of the crop."



For more information about the competition click here. The National Merino Fleece Young Judges Championship will be held at 9am on Thursday, October 12. Agricultural Shows Australia will issue a press release to announce the results as soon as they are announced. Media are welcome to attend the national finals.