This is my 28th Game Fair in which I have run for Wales, and the tenth as the team’s Captain, believe me I feel it’s a great privilege and an honour. There have been many great dogs, great trainers and handlers that have represented my Country over the years.
Wales have had their fair share of individual winners at both retrievers and spaniels in the past. Over the years in addition we have won both spaniel and retriever breed competitions, but we have never won the overall team event at the Game Fair International, although coming close on numerous occasions.
As a proud Welshman I was delighted to accept the CLA’s invitation to Captain Wales a job that I take seriously and a job I’m privileged to carry out, but a job that is not easy at times. I’m privileged to follow on in the footsteps of Neil Lamb and John Blackburn both great sportsmen, not forgetting Mr Blackburn a winner of the Spaniel Championship and of course the Lambs well known as great Labrador people.
We are not blessed in Wales with the number of trainers and handlers at top level that England, Ireland and Scotland have. Wales has a healthy number of spaniel handlers and trainers, as test, trials and the spaniel championships will prove at both Springer and Cockers. I’m sure that you will all know some of the spaniel legends Wales have provided in the past, present and hopefully future. Retrievers are not as popular in Wales and there are a limited amount of top handlers and trainers in the Country who compete at the top level throughout the sport.
In selecting the Spaniel team, I am assisted by Wesley Thomas, we look at open trial results, open test results, the respective championship qualifiers and then look at what’s available to us before our final selection test – this year there were 18 of the best spaniels in the country that took part at the selection test, including 4 champions 9 open stake winners. Eight dogs making it through to the final stage. The 5th and reserve place being decided after a four dog run off.
In selecting the Retrievers – this year I invited, via a letter everyone who had a trial award preferably an open, to be looked at and considered. This gave me ten dogs to consider. From this position I choose seven dogs all open trial and test winners with experienced handlers at top competition level, some dogs getting older and retiring has left a dent in our resources yet to be filled by experienced handlers and dogs that have been proven at this level of competition. When resource are limited it is essential to pull together, and I would like it noted that my gratitude is extended to each and everyone involved with the Welsh Gundog Team here today.
What I look for in a team is a group of handlers that will work together and help each other as this is the CLA International this is the greatest test stage of them all. We in Wales make up for a lot in the way that we pull together and support each other. The work put in by this team, if justice prevailed, would mean that we should win every year. The team is based on the quality of the dog and handler as an unit, and what will get that combination round the course as a team under the pressure we as handlers feel in that arena. Everyone is different, and that goes for all sports, as I can draw experience as captain of the young scarlets and the region, a high profile rugby player and an International rugby referee, although of course when I was much younger.
This year’s team has a new look about it –
Spaniels – we have Aled Jones running in his second Game Fair but running Meg the Machine, the bitch that won the 2010 Spaniel Championship, and also his young open stake winner. Alistair Ross running his champion Tag qualified for last years championship ending up with a diploma handled by Graham his son, and winner of the Kennel Club Open test in Chatsworth for the past two years. Kevin Powell running Judy, he also qualified for the championship, he has a great work ethic, and he also runs his young open stake winner here today. I’m very pleased to see Dickie Jones as our reserve today Dickie is well known all over the trial world and he has been a vital part of the team this year. To say that I am very pleased with a well balanced team of spaniels is an understatement. Good luck boys, thanks for your support and hard work.
Retrievers – this year we look to rebuild having lost great dogs like FTCH Lavenghyl Peacock and FTCH Greenbriar Glencoe, FTCH Smithsteads Widgeon, the backbone of past teams have been retired since our last visit here at Ragley, these dogs were always pushing for top placing. We now blood new dogs and new handlers in Craig Perry, and Andrew Fisher. Andrew running the First ever Golden Retriever to be selected for Wales at the Game Fair, and believe me this is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
This year’s team Craig Perry runs a very nice young dog Bruce, that has run well through all the run outs we have had this year and throws his hat into the big arena for the first time, this is Craig’s first CLA International – but this dog can be exceptional. Roger Phillips with Fred, Roger needs no introduction one of the top trainers, breeders and handlers in the Country – always turns out a good one, Roger is a previous winner of the CLA title, a great help in the preparations, and have a good one Rog. Myself Alan Rees with FTCH Jobeshill Ragner of Flypatch, he excites me, a young dog having achieved his title last season, this is Bud’s second game fair. Mark Bettinson runs Astraglen Milo a young dog having achieved great trial results last season.
Andrew Fisher runs Vamp Pipsissewa having represented Wales at the Chatsworth international in team GB on three occasions this is a great combination to have around.
All the dogs and handlers named so far are open field trial winners with awards and wins or awards in open working tests. Last but by no means least our reserve Kevin Downs he is no stranger to this arena, Kevin again a no frills guy, gets on with the job and Mr reliable. Once again boys good luck, thanks for the huge support over the past few weeks and months, we have put the work in lets hope it goes well for us on the day.
I would also like to thank everyone behind the scenes that have helped get us here today, particularly Eleri she does the entire organisation, cooking etc etc etc.
One big thank you in signing off – we would not be here today if not for CSJ our sponsors Ceri – DIOLCH YN FAWR – (thank you)