Competitive plowing cuts it where ‘footy, soccer, cricket’ didn’t

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 doesn’t have a large and devoted fan base.

Plowers compete to see who can work a field into perfect rows of neat, straight furrows.

And while the sport is as fast as a tractor, Alison McGee remembers how many people came to watch the 1982 World Plowing Championships at Mount Ireh Farm in Tasmania.

“And until the AFL came to Tasmania, which was only in the 2000s, as a sporting event, plows had the record for the most crowds on the first day of the game.”

McGee returned to Mount Ireh in Longford last month to judge the national team competition.

And among those vying for tractor triumph was a 19-year-old who will represent Australia on the international stage.

Daniel says “the ability to represent your country…that’s a great asset”.ABC News: Lachlan Bennett

Next generation of tractor tradition

Competitive plowing is a time-honored tradition of ceremony and pomp, from the “blessing of the plow” sometimes performed by priests at competitions to the hymns celebrating the bounty of the land.

It’s a tradition that runs in Daniel Gladwell’s blood.

His father has competed abroad many times and in September it will be Daniel’s turn when he goes to the international competition in Ireland.

“The ability to represent your country, especially for me, is a great asset,” he said.

“You get to travel the world and do something every day on your farm.”

But it won’t be easy: plowing is an incredibly brutal sport.

A young man in a beanie squats next to a plow
Although Daniel will have his father to coach him in Ireland, due to transport costs he does not have his own tractor.ABC News: Lachlan Bennett

During the hours and hours of competition, teams constantly measure their furrows, adjust their equipment and monitor their progress.

Daniel’s father Peter said there’s not much you can do if you make a wrong move.

“In this case, if you’ve left a stone 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, it looks at you all day.”

While Peter knows how heartbreaking a mistake can be, he also knows the euphoria of a perfectly plowed field.

“There is a great sense of accomplishment and achievement.”

Competition with camaraderie

Although Daniel will have his father to coach him in Ireland, he does not own a tractor due to the cost of transporting such a large machine.

He will also be in uncharted territory, with different soil types requiring subtle changes in plowing technique.

It will be competitive, but not without camaraderie.

“All the plowmen and all the carriages are basically all in the same hotel. So we’re always together, we all have breakfast and dinner together,” he said.

“You make a lot of friends from different parts of the world and then you have a drink.

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