Sport

Line honours

By Andrew Johnston

WINNING seemingly every title across Australia isn’t always enough.

For some, the desire to compete will take them anywhere in the world — especially the land of the long white cloud.

Echuca’s Stephen Atkins has returned from across the Tasman Sea where he competed in the New Zealand Down The Line Championships at the Waikato Clay Target Club near Hamilton on the North Island.

And as is an Australian tradition, Atkins returned having shown the Kiwis up on their own turf.

Atkins claimed the single barrel championship at the event, his ninth National Championship victory on New Zealand soil.

‘‘It’s always good to get a victory,’’ he said.

‘‘I shot really well on the day and was pretty excited to come home with the trophy.’’

Ever the dead-eye with gun in hand, Atkins was perfect through his initial shooting rounds, hitting 50 of 50 targets.

The problem for Atkins was that he had four other shooters locked on 50 targets with him.

The remaining competitors entered a shoot-off, which took 11 rounds to declare Atkins the winner.

‘‘On the surface that seems like a really low number,’’ he said.

‘‘But it was far from perfect conditions for shooting. The visibility on the range was quite poor and as you can imagine in a sport like ours where you have a very small target to aim at, it becomes incredibly hard to do.

‘‘I’m very happy with the result because it took the best of all the competitors to get to the shoot-off in challenging conditions.’’

It’s nothing new for Atkins to claim a victory on Kiwi soil — he’s claimed nine titles in his many trips to New Zealand to shoot.

‘‘I won my first national championship in New Zealand 22 years ago,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s strange to think about it because I feel like it really wasn’t that long ago that it happened. I had my most recent victory there in 2012 so to come back and get another victory seven years later is a pretty special feeling.’’

It’s a strong start to the year for the legend of the Echuca Clay Target Club, which is aiming to follow on from a highly successful 2018 that saw the club acknowledged as the Sportstar Team of the Year.

Next in line for the town’s shooters is the National Trap Championships, being held in Roma, Queensland in the opening week of April.