Sheep dog trials.
Sheep dog trials. The Daily Examiner

League players to herd sheep

IS a group of professional rugby league players better at herding sheep than a working farm dog?

It is a question which Grafton Show patrons will learn the answer to when Jamie Shipman pits man against man's best friend in an exciting encounter of sheepish skills in the main show ring tonight and tomorrow night.

“The show society approached me about doing a display,” Shipman said.

“A couple of guys I do dog trials with talked about local sports stars taking on one man and his dog.

“So I invited the (Ghosts and Rhinos) ... and they seemed pretty excited and keen.”

The battle lines are drawn with both league teams fielding a squad of five players (plus two interchange), instructed by their 'handler', trying to herd four sheep through an obstacles course as quickly as possible in the display.

The first hurdle in the challenging course is the gap and once - if at all - negotiated, the human sheep-herding machine must conquer the race before crossing the finish line by securing all four sheep in the make-shift pen.

Once the squad of seven is finished, Shipman and his four-legged professional Melmunni Jazz will attempt to show the amateurs how it is done.

“I don't know if they (players) will get them past the gate,” Shipman said with a smile.

“There is a general understanding that a dog doing station work can do several things a man can't do.”

Once the league players have had a crack, Shipman will throw down the challenge to lucky members of the crowd for tomorrow night's entertainment, with the rest of the audience holding sway as judge and jury over the battle between man and dog.

The sheep herding challenge will not be the only activity on the display's list, with Shipman to challenge speedy youngsters from the crowd to a race against his dogs and a small demonstration on how he manipulates a dog's movements.

“I'll explain how I can make them go straight, left, right and stop,” he said.

“The whole concept of the display is to entertain the crowd.”

Shipman said he expected his display to quickly fill the show ring pavilion, with the Grafton public starved of the entertaining sheep dog trials.

“I always get people coming up to me and saying it's a shame there are no trials in the area,” he said.

“But this isn't a sheep breeding area and the closest trials are up in Glen Innes.”

Shipman said the concept of sporting teams competing against his sheep dogs could become a yearly event at the show, with a host of Clarence Valley sporting clubs already on Shipman's hit list.

Jamie Shipman's display starts at 7pm in the main ring.

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