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Beyond the Bale : June 2017
2016 was a year of firsts for Australian woolhandling representative Sophie Huf. The 25-year-old Victorian won her first Australian national woolhandling title in October last year, gaining Sophie her debut selection in the Australian team and a maiden trip to the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships at Invercargill, New Zealand, in February. This year has also started exceptionally well for Sophie with her reaching 4th in the finals at the World Championships. Along with Mel Morris of Tasmania, Sophie also won Australia the highly creditable runner’s-up spot in the team event. It’s also worth adding the arrival of her first child at the end of 2015 to her list of recent highlights. Baby Axel is a calming influence for the proud new mother at competitions and he and husband Paul joined Sophie on the trip across the Tasman for the World Championships. Sophie has shearing in her genes. Her father was a shearer for 25 years, and her mother was a wool-classer for 22. She grew up around a woolshed so it's little surprise that she was in the Huf family shed on the day Baby Axel decided it was time to enter the world. “I went home around 4 o'clock because I wasn’t feeling that well. I was absolutely buggered Australian woolhandling champion Sophie Huf from the Western District of Victoria has helped promote excellence and professionalism in the wool shed through woolhandling competitions and wool handler training funded by AWI. and my labour started at 10 o'clock that night, so I was glad I went home when I did,” she said. Husband Paul is also a shearer so there’s every chance baby Axel will follow the family tradition into the industry. TRAINING OTHERS Prior to taking some time off to look after Axel, Sophie has been a woolhandling instructor in south-west Victoria working for RIST– with which AWI contracts for the delivery of shearer and wool handler training in the region. She was teaching in both woolhandling schools and coaches out in the shed. Education is a key method for helping attract and retain staff in the industry – and Sophie has been happy to do her part. “The majority of my role has been to get students started, in learner schools. They may never have been in a woolshed before and so I would be getting them started right from scratch,” she said. “I would also go out into the shed and visit people who are already working in the industry fulltime and give them some pointers to make their job a bit easier or to help step up the quality which hopefully makes the woolgrower a bit more money at the end of the day.” COMPETITIONS Her passion for the industry that has been her life is clear. So too is the pride in her performance during her World Championship campaign. “I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever but I really enjoyed the experience and the atmosphere. I was lucky with having Mel Morris as my team mate. She’s also a trainer for AWI, a good friend and a very good competitor. She’s got good experience behind her and has taught me a lot too,” Sophie said. This year marks ten years since Sophie first started competing, and she is still hoping to continue despite its demanding nature. “There’s a lot of physical and mental preparation that goes into the lead up to competition and a lot of the muscles used in woolhandling or shearing can’t be trained in a gym. The only way those muscles get a workout is when you’re in the shed doing the job.” Sophie said she competes because she enjoys the sport and it gives her the opportunity to showcase wool to the best of her abilities. “I’m passionate about publicising the wool industry in a positive way,” she said. “I want to show the professionalism we have within the industry and the pride we take in our work.” Sophie Huf (with compatriot Mel Morris behind) on the way to earning Australia a second place in the woolhandling competition at this year’s World Championships in New Zealand. Back in Australia, has Sophie (and Mel) has conducted wool handler training funded by AWI. PHOTO: Pete Nikolaison Photography SOPHIE HUF AUSTRALIAN WOOLHANDLING CHAMPION AND TRAINER 50 ON FARM