Handicap Panel Convenors Report 2013

Handicap Panel Convenors Report 2013

Handicapping, in wood chopping is the practice of assigning time penalty to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning. Handicapping when it works well makes for fair competition and encourages novices and young competitors to improve and try harder. In effect it helps everyone to lift their game.

I have been Convenor of Handicappers for over 12 years now. I quickly realised that a dictatorship does not work. With help from Des Schreiber, who agreed the system was not working and was influential in getting Central to come on board joined NANIA in a system that has worked well ever since.

Nania and Central have a fair handicap system. While administration of the system is still not uniform throughout the country it does work as long as everyone is honest. All our top axemen have had the benefit of the system and climbed that ladder from a mark of 3.

As a handicapper and an axemen it is my contention that everyone should be equal in a handicap. To quote the late Sonny Bolstad, He said he was no more entitled to win a handicap event than anyone else but the championships were all his to win if he could get them.

The fairness of the handicap system and the championing of the underdog is a quality and characteristic that is perhaps unique to our heritage sport. The spectators clap home the last place getters and stand and cheer when young competitors get in and have a go. It is good clean competition with the toughest of men fighting it out to stand gentle in victory and steady in defeat.

These values are what our country was built on and it is a shame to see them eroded. Unfortunately over the years, the greed of some of the top axemen has seen them wanting a bigger share of the cake having been spoiled on the way up. This greed has been the culprit that has resulted in the destruction of a lot of meetings. The northland circuit is a case in point.

In the past year a number of our high performance axemen have been heard grumbling about the inequity of the handicap system. I didn’t hear them grumbling when they were winning. They have enjoyed their winnings on the way up. Now as the examples and iconic sports heroes they should work their way back down just like everyone else has to. In fact they have the opportunity now to demonstrate sportsmanship by mentoring and encouraging young axemen and giving back to the meetings that gave them their early opportunities. That is the nature of amateur sport.

Our country is too small and communities too poor for the professional sports meeting opportunities offered off shore. Championship chops when and where they are offered provide an opportunity for the top competitors to shine, but they should be contributing like everyone else in open events as this is what sustains local meetings.

It was very pleasing this year to see trials held. Trials are another opportunity for axemen to prove themselves. It is disturbing that some seem to have lost sight of what the trials are all about. They have argued that trials are not needed, but trials are a fair and equitable test of performance. One feature of a trial system is that automatic selection and on-going re-selection is NOT guaranteed. The trial is a tournament that pits the best against each other to determine without question which deserves their spot.

Other selection methods open the selectors and the association to allegation of unfairness, favouritism, bias and nepotism. It also makes it difficult to remove people if their performance declines.

When selecting teams we are looking for axemen with mental toughness to be able to cut together in team racing. On paper New Zealand has the best axemen but they are beaten in races by mentally tough Aussies who appear to have a strong sense of patriotism that overrides personal ambition.

A lot of axemen, notably Brian Trow, Mark Hughes, Bruce Alexander, Rusty Lemon and even Sonny Bolstad would not have made entry into the New Zealand team without trials.

They would never have had a taste of victory without a fair and honest handicap system.