Woodchopping is a man’s sport
Sydney’s modern woodchopping stadium – a pocket-sized arena crammed with sweating axemen, punctual officials and blackbutt timber –is man’s last strong hold at the Royal Show.
And you don’t have to be a woman-hater to pray earnestly that the day will never come when women’s tree-felling events will be held there.
The old comedy song Father Holds the Lantern While Mother Chops the Wood might be all right in the backblocks, but not at the show.
The only time you see a woman in the actual competition area is when some winner’s mother is honored by placing the blue ribbon around her son’s neck.
Or when a luscious model, for photographic purposes, makes the presentation and kisses the winner.
No-there never was a more virile game than woodchopping and there never was a sport more rightfully taboo to women.
Tom Kirk is 17 stone if he’s an ounce and has been swing an axe almost since he discarded his rattle.
Some undersized, frustrated spectators who wouldn’t miss the chopping for anything will tell you the axemen are "all brawn and no brain".
Don’t fall for that!
I’ve interviewed many of them and watched them in action too often to be taken in by those remarks.
See them mark their timber, cut their footholds and place their final cuts with deadly accuracy, and you’ll realise there’s more to it than merely brute strength.
Admittedly, some are not over – elegant (that’s because of natural shyness), but most of them would lose the little whispering spectator in both bank balance and happiness.
There’s no doubt about the popularity of the woodchopping stadium – it’s packed almost every Show, day and night.
So it should be, when you consider that the best in the world bite their axed into the hard North Coast timber.
This year sees the return to the blocks of former world champion Manny McCarthy, who held sway for years after the mighty Leo Appo put away his axe.
Manny is now in his fifties and has an 18 year old son, Jim, competing in junior events this year.
With Jim now a fully – fledged contestant there are six McCarthys in the game.
Once again the best axemen from other States are represented – 15 coming from VIC, 10 from QLD and 8 from TAS.
One of the Queensland contingent is Vic Summers, the world’s champion tree-feller.
Summers returns after a successful trip to New Zealand, where he amazed crowds with his tree-felling speed.
You have to see Summers cut his holes, put in the planks, and send a tree-top hurtling to the ground in a couple of minutes, to appreciate his prowess.
Three Youd brothers are over from Tasmania, including Mervyn, a former world’s standing block champion.
Mervyn was badly cut with a saw during the Melbourne Show, but is back in the game, and should hit top form later in the Show.
His brothers are Doug and Ray (the youngest), both of whom have registered fast times in Tasmania recently.
Tom Kirk will defend his world standing block (15inch) championship, and Jack O’Toole is back to stake his under-hand 15-inch title.
Oldest competitor is a 72 – year-old barber from Wallerawang, Arthur Devlyn.
Arthur, who won his first woodchop in 1898, has entered two 15-inch sawing events.
He is positive proof that you never get wood-chopping out of your system.
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