Legally blind but vying for state team honour

Legally blind but vying for state team honour


Wool
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Ashlea Hughes has a proven eye for detail when she's handling a fleece - quite a feat, given the 24-year-old is legally blind.

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STATE FINAL: Ashlea Hughes, Leongatha, is vision-impaired but won't let that get in the way of competing in the Victorian Sports Shear state final.

STATE FINAL: Ashlea Hughes, Leongatha, is vision-impaired but won't let that get in the way of competing in the Victorian Sports Shear state final.

ASHLEA Hughes has a proven eye for detail when she's handling a fleece - quite a feat, given the 24-year-old is legally blind.

Ms Hughes won the novice wool handler class at the Royal Perth Show in September and has qualified for the Victorian Sports Shear state final, to be held at this year's Australian Sheep & Wool Show (ASWS), after taking out her class at Edenhope and finishing top-three at Coleraine and Beaufort.

"I have a hereditary condition (retinitis pigmentosa) that caused my peripheral vision to deteriorate," said the Longerenong Agricultural College graduate, who lives on her family's dairy farm in Leongatha, but spent the past few years as a roustabout in Edenhope.

"Most people have 120-degree sight; I have about eight degrees.

"It affects little things when I compete - I might miss something other people would see, like a bit of skin, or a lock on the table."

But Ms Hughes has impressed employers, trainers and judges with her ability to quickly and efficiently throw and skirt fleeces, sort oddments and present a tidy work area in the shearing shed.

She finished third in last year's state final and hopes to this year earn a place on the Sports Shear Victoria team to compete at the national titles in Dubbo, NSW, in November.

Wool handlers are judged on how well they throw, clean and sort their fleece and oddments and how effectively they work alongside the shearers.

The action in the shearing shed at the ASWS will start on Friday, July 19, which will include training sessions, followed by blade shearing heats and finals and also a judges' workshop.

Saturday features the Northern Shears competition for novice, intermediate, senior and open shearers and novice, senior and open wool handlers, which will be the first event on the 2019-20 calendar.

Then the Victorian Shearing and Wool Handling Competition final on Sunday sees top performers in all classes from the 2018-19 season aim for state team honours.

North Central Victorian Sports Shears Association president Adrian Tuohey said about 750 sheep would be supplied courtesy of Paul Brown, Marong, Gavin O'Sullivan, Elmore, and from his own Toolleen property.

Mr Tuohey encouraged members of the public to witness the high-class spectacle.

"The competition is not just based on workers doing their job, it's how well they do that job," he said.

"It involves speed, efficiency, care for the animal and the craft - all of which are workplace behaviours they perform day-to-day in shearing sheds across Australia."

The story Legally blind but vying for state team honour first appeared on Stock & Land.

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