ALAN REES – WALES GUNDOG CAPTAIN
This is my 29th Game Fair in which I have run for Wales, believe me I feel it’s a great privilege and an honour. There have been many great dogs and great trainers and handlers that have represented my Country over the years. This year it’s my 11th year as Captain of Wales an honour in itself although I am now feeling a bit of an elderly statesman, with John Halstead’s retirement last year, a fantastic Captain that I learned so much from.
Whilst Wales have had their fair share of individual winners at both retrievers and spaniels over the years, and in addition breed winners – as an overall team we have never won the Game Fair International title, although coming close a number of times in the 80’s and 90’s. Last year was a good year for us, and the Team was second overall to eventual winners England; hopefully we can build on this.
We are not blessed in Wales with a number of trainers and handlers at the top level that England, Ireland and Scotland have. Wales has a healthy number of spaniel handlers and trainers, as test, trials and spaniel championships will prove, both with Springers and Cockers. Retrievers are not as popular in Wales and there are a limited number of top handlers and trainers in the Country who compete at the highest level through the sport, although this year on the team we have 3 new handlers, but over half the dogs are very young dogs with limited exposure to this level of competition.
In selecting the Spaniel team, I was assisted by John Edwards this year, we looked at open trial results, open test results, the respective championship qualifiers and then looked at what’s available to us before our final selection test – this year there were 12 of the best spaniels in the country that took part at the selection test; the quality was definitely better this year so I hope the guys perform to their potential..
In selecting the Retrievers – I invite everyone who has a novice trial win along with open test winners to be looked at, this normally gives me between ten and fifteen dogs to assess. From this assessment I cut them to seven or eight to carry on training and then make my mind up which six to take, of which five will run. This year dogs looked at were very young in general, I had the opportunity to look at fourteen dogs. This process started in late April, by late May we had 8 dogs being assessed and of those in contention, six are here today. When resource is 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, help each other, as this the CLA International is the greatest test stage of them all. We in Wales make up for a lot in the way 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.
I don’t necessarily believe in picking the best dog on the day to be in the team. The team is based on the quality of the dog and handler as a unit, and what will get the team round this course under the pressure we as handlers feel in this competition. Every competitor is different, and that goes for all sports, I 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, hopefully the team can feed off each other over this weekend.
This year’s team has a new look about it –
Spaniels – Alastair Ross, running Tag for the third time, he has also qualified for the championship and was in the awards, and is the in form guy. David Williams running Sid, also qualified his bitch Rosie as a reserve in the selection – she was our top Spaniel last year. Dai Pither is on the team again this year with Max as he was last year. Two new handlers on the team are Roger Wooldridge with Star and David Gregory with Brooke. To say that I am very pleased with a well balanced team of spaniels is an understatement and hopefully none of the bitches break down on or before the big day. Good luck boys, thanks for your support and hard work.
This year’s team sees new man Haydn Willmott, running Stykes Boy Llangynidr, at his first CLA. Craig Perry runs FTCh Cynhinfa John winner of the selection test, Bruce having attained his title last year. Second time on the team is Nigel Probert one of the best test men in the country. Mark Bettinson runs his young FTCh Cynhinfa Laban, having won his novice and two open stakes in his first season.
Myself – Alan Rees with FTCh Jobeshill Ragner make up the five – Bud is no stranger to the CLA or other Internationals – he also gained a diploma of merit in last year’s Retriever Championship – I hope we all go well this weekend. The youngest dog on our team sheet is our reserve, Leo, at just 2 years old, just missing out this year.
All the dogs and handlers named so far are field trial champions or winners with awards and wins in open working tests. Once again boys good luck, thanks for the huge support over the past few months, we have put the work in so let’s hope it goes well for us on the day.
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)