The Owen boys are a cut above
By TONY WHITE
WHEN it comes to the sport of wood chopping Max Kroehnert and his grand children, Chris and Matthew Owen, are a cut above the rest.
The trio recently competed at the annual Royal Easter Show event in Sydney and chopped their way to three appearances on the dais.
Thirteen-year-old Matthew won the Under-18 underhand handicap event off a five second handicap. Chris, 16, off a 22 second handicap, finished third in the same event.
And 'grandad' Max, 69, finished runner-up in the Over-60s underhand handicap event.
It was Max Kroehnert who got the boys interested in wood chopping.
Kroehnert has been involved in wood chopping for most of his life competing at Easter Show and other events around Australia.
Chris and Matthew have been competing for around three years with their axes supplied by Max.
"Our grandfather and uncles have been in wood chopping for ages and we went along to a competition and then got into it (wood chopping)," Chris said.
"We practise and train at grandad's. He's got all the axes and stuff we can train with."
Kroehnert, who chops under the name of Max Cronin, started wood chopping as a 16-year-old.
His father Cecil, nicknamed 'Boxer' and brothers Les, Neville and Terry were all wood chopping exponents.
"I started competitively in about 1953 and have won events around the place, but nothing really big," he said.
"Neville was the best in the family. He won Queensland and Australian titles.
"Chris and Matthew are showing a lot of potential, my word. Each has a different style.
"Chris is stronger and better at standing events and Matt the other way. For a young fella he's going great.
"They're keen to learn to sharpen their own axes, but I'm holding off, not encouraging them. It can be a pretty dangerous business and for the moment I can do it for them."
This year's Royal Easter Show was the third occasion the Owen lads have competed at the premier wood chopping event and Kroehnert's 40th.
Last year Chris finished second in the junior development section and Matthew was runner-up this year.
As you would expect sibling rivalry comes into play.
"Yeah, there's always a bit of rivalry, but Matthew and I are pretty close," Chris suggested.
"Next year we'll both be competing in the opens."
The boy's parents, Neil and Wendy, Kroehnert's daughter, are strong supporters and often travel to the various shows in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and the Clarence Valley.
Wood chopping requires strength and particularly technique.
One slip of the axe and injury is certain.
Chris said injuries were pretty rare considering the dangerous nature of wielding an axe with full force in underhand events only centimetres from your feet.
"One bloke from Glenreagh cut his toe off at the Royal Easter Show," Chris recalled.
"The axe bounced out of the block and sliced into his toe, but that sort of stuff is pretty rare."
Last year Chris was selected to represent NSW in the Under-18s at the Adelaide Royal Show and after his winning performance in Syd- ney, Matthew is likely to follow.