Pig hunting a favourite pastime
NO ONE has ever accused Grafton Ghosts backrower Ben McLennan of ‘doggin’ it’ on the footy field - but off the playing pitch is a different matter.
McLennan, 21, along with some of his Ghosts’ teammates, can’t wait for the weekend to arrive so he can head off into the remote Australian bush for a spot of ‘doggin’ - or pig chasing to be precise.
You get what you see with the whole-hearted McLennan, a country boy who loves nothing better than fishing or hunting when he’s not playing footy.
The Ghosts’ wild man boasts a broad smile on his face when it’s time to pack up the ute and drive to his favourite hunting spot, soak up the Australian landscape, breathe in the fresh country air and hopefully bag a trophy wild boar.
However pig chasing requires one important component - a dog bred for wild boar hunting and McLennan’s best mate Buster fits the bill perfectly.
“Buster is only 12 months old, he’s an Arab Bull and never leaves my side,” McLennan says.
“He’s got a great temperament and he’s very loyal. All up I have three hunting dogs and I’m about to purchase another pup.”
The robust forward says he took up pig chasing a few years ago, which he admits has turned into a bit of an obsession.
“I only started pig chasing two-and-a-half years ago. A few of my mates do it and my uncle used to be keen at chasing pigs,” he says.
“During footy season it’s hard to get away. We usually head off if we have a bye or sometimes I’ll try and work Saturday and have Friday off so we can camp out Thursday and Friday night.
“We normally go pig chasing around Condamine in Queensland or Goondiwindi.”
McLennan says the best time to go pig chasing is during the winter months when the temperatures are mild and the days are cooler.
“We prefer to go in winter. After we set up camp we hunt right through the night especially if we’re catching pigs,” he says.
“We tend to sleep during the day when it’s too hot for the dogs to hunt.”
Apart from Buster, McLennan has a few Ghosts first-graders who like to tag along and according to McLennan one player in particular failed the fear factor test.
“Daniel Lollback always comes on the trips as well as Mitchell Wicks and Dan Shipman,” he says.
“We took Boog (Anthony Don) last time, it was his first experience at pig chasing and I think he enjoyed it. Boog’s a bit of a sook but he’s almost as quick as the pigs. We had two pigs tied up in the cage and I told Boog if he got in and caught one I’d pay for all his expenses over the weekend.
“He said ‘OK...sweet, that’ll be no problem’.When he got closer he froze and chickened out...you should have seen the scared look on his face.”
On the footy field McLennan has developed into a fearless competitor. His liking for the rough stuff is evident when you watch him play - but what about when an 80kg wild boar is bearing down on him and there are no trees around to scamper up.
“They’ve turned and come at me a few times, I just try and get out of the way...dodge them or jump over them,” he says.
The Ghosts have a side more than capable of winning this year’s competition and McLennan will play a pivotal role in the Ghosts’ push for a premiership title.
The local junior has been back playing for the Ghosts after a stint with Parramatta in the Toyota Cup where he played on the wing and in the centres.
Early season form and respect from the coach has seen McLennan rewarded with the vice-captaincy role which was announced at the Ghosts’ season launch last Friday night. But for McLennan playing along side a willing pack of forwards and exciting backline is almost as good as chasing feral pigs.
“It’s great playing with mates and I’m enjoying playing in first grade...it’s exciting times. I’ve been working on my ball skills and off-loads and Danny (Wicks) has helped me a lot,” he said.
The Ghosts may have to keep a close eye on their newly appointed vice-captain - the Goondiwindi league team is called the Boars.