National stage awaits
Saturday, 24th September, 2011
By John Casey
Former School of the Air student Sally Smyth is fast building a reputation as one of the best young talents in Australia when it comes to identifying quality livestock.
Sixteen-year-old Sally, whose family runs Wilandra Station, 160km north-east of Broken Hill, will be competing at next week’s Royal Melbourne Show full of confidence after another stand-out performance in Adelaide recently.
For the third consecutive year Sally won multiple events at the Royal Adelaide Show and agriculture industry experts believe she is an immense talent.
“Sally is exceptional,” Grant Waterman, Agricultural Societies Council of SA President, said.
“There is no doubt she is destined for a fine career in the wool industry.”
Sally, a Year 10 student at Yanco Agricultural High School in south western NSW, modestly played down her efforts when contacted by the BDT.
“I just love getting involved and having a go,” Sally said.
“There is so much to learn and it is just a matter of learning from your mistakes.
“I’ve always been interested in rural studies and it is very competitive at the major shows - but I have always enjoyed the challenge,” Sally continued.
Proud parents Natasha and Samuel Smyth, who have been running Wilandra Station, east of Mutawintji National Park for the past five years, are understandably very proud of their daughter’s achievements.
“Sally was always very passionate about wool ... we all are,” Mum Natasha said from the family property.
“When Sally was younger, if there was stock in the yards she was out there and observing them - she has always been diligent.
“She would sit for hours with her Dad and pick out the best stock, explaining to Samuel what she thought of their legs, chest and the overall confirmation,” Natasha added.
It is a passion that has obviously paid off for Sally as she is now considered by experienced experts as capable of competing - and winning - national competitions.
However, because of geographical quirks in the boundaries of state-based Agricultural Societies, she has so far been denied that opportunity.
“Sally is the South Australian champion, but because she doesn’t live in the state she is not allowed to represent us at the national titles,” Grant Waterman explained.
“It’s not right, and I have spoken to national officials about it, but at this stage there isn’t a lot we can do.”
Sally’s Mum Natasha pointed out that geography and timing meant that the Royal Sydney Show was not an option for Sally.
“It is a real shame because that has been a goal of hers - to one day compete at the national level,” Natasha said.
While Sally waits for the archaic rules to be changed to allow her to prove herself on the national stage she can content herself with the knowledge that her results speak for themselves.
At the recent Royal Adelaide Show Sally won ribbons in three categories and was runner-up in another.
It was the third consecutive year she had taken out an event for Merino ram judging and follows success at last year’s Royal Melbourne and Royal Canberra Shows.
“It is a very competitive atmosphere and always good to beat the boys,” Sally said with a laugh.
Competing against the boys is nothing new to Sally as she has grown up with four brothers; Ashley (17); Thomas (14) and 12-year-old twins Angus and Jake.
“Growing up Sally always wanted her own herd of goats,” Mum Natasha said.
“I can remember her as an eight-year-old taking care of poddy lambs and feral goats in the yard.
“Even if they needed feeding five times a day Sally would stick to the job - it was never too much work for her.”
At next week’s Royal Melbourne Show Sally will be out to maintain her standing as the overall top schools sheep handler, having won the longwool and shortwool sections in 2010.
After that it will be a chance to enjoy what is left of the school holidays with her family at Wilandra - a 37,500 hectare property where the Smyth’s run 6000 poll Merinos and about 150 cattle.
Following that it will be back to Yanco to put the finishing touches on her two-year wool classing certificate. Sally will then have a further two years of school before spending a year honing her knowledge and skills in the Northern Territory.
“After that I’m looking forward to a career in the wool industry,” Sally said.