A team of eight New England Girls’ School students has just returned from six days intensive training and match competition in the traditionally male dominated sport of Fullbore Rifle Shooting. The team placed well in the matches, and one girl top scored out of seventy other competitors over three first grade events. Team Captain Clare White tells us about the sport.
Give us some background about Fullbore Rifle Shooting.
Fullbore target shooting began in England in 1859, when county volunteer rifle companies formed to repel an anticipated French invasion.
The National Rifle Association of Great Britain began running an annual target shooting competition, which is still held every year at Bisley in Sussex. Meanwhile, all the countries of the British Empire started their own Associations, with Rifle Clubs in nearly every city and town.
Around the New England there were ranges in Armidale, Uralla, Walcha, Glen Innes, Tenterfield and even Hillgrove.
The sporting aspect soon became the main focus, and Fullbore shooters can now aspire as high as the Commonwealth Games.
The key thing for us though, is that no-one thought to write any rules about gender, so now it’s one of the few sports that’s truly equal for males and females.
Who are the girls in the team?
This year our team included Casey James (Year 12 Queensland), Christine Pointing (Year 12 Yarrowitch), Polly McDouall (Year 11 Armidale), Rowan McNaught (Year 11 Yarrowitch), Sophie McKenzie (Year 10 Werris Creek), Zara Babington and Rebecca Cushway (Year 10 Armidale), and myself. I’m in Year 12 and from Guyra.
As you can see, the team is unique in that it allows ‘vertical’ participation. We have Year 7s and 8s training for next year. Christine is our main wind coach. Her job is to adjust the shooters’ sights to compensate for wind blowing the bullet off course.
Tell us about the competitions your team shot in.
The first match was the Fiona Reynolds All Schools Match. It’s named in memory of a NEGS Old Girl who died of cancer soon after she left school. This year, 14 teams of five shooters competed.
We shot from 300, 500 and 600 metres, with each shooter firing ten counting shots for a ‘possible’ score of 50 at each range and 750 for the match. We had trained for a week in all sorts of weather at Anzac Range Malabar, but the match day was sunny with relatively predictable wind. NEGS scored 680.37 to come fourth overall and second in the Prorak Trophy, a concurrent match with TAS and Sydney High School.
The squad then moved to Hornsby Range to shoot alongside the annual AAGPS Rifle Shooting Premiership. This was the tenth time NEGS had been to GPS, so we were determined use our new rifles to take the challenge up to the boys.
The Premiership comprises three First VIII matches and one Second VIII match. We shot in all matches, with our scores being continually compared with the other schools.
In the Rawson Cup we came 6th, with ‘possibles’ from Rowan and Polly. King’s won the match; however, Rowan emerged as the top shooter. After lunch the NRA Shield was also won by King’s, but Rowan maintained her lead with another ‘possible’ to give her 119.11 ex 120.
Next morning, NEGS shot in the 2nd VIII teams and emerged clear point score winners with a score of 516.32 ex 560, including ‘possibles’ from Rowan, Christine and Polly.
The final ‘glamour’ First VIII event, The Buchanan Shield, involves a stage of Deliberate and a stage of Snap at 300 metres. NEGS performed well as a team again; however, all eyes were on Rowan as she now looked to maintain her lead against the best shots from the other schools. Her deliberate 39.3 score ex 40 helped, but the clincher came with the Snap when she scored a 38.0 ex 40 to be only three points down across the three matches.
‘Snap’ is shooting at a serving tray sized target from 300 metres. The target is shown to the shooter for five seconds, then turned away for five seconds. It’s fast and fun to shoot, but it’s easy to lose points.
We came 5th in this match, with excellent Snap scores from Polly, Clare and Zara. My personal aggregate of 190.11 and Polly’s 190.9 equated to a position on the Combined AAGPS Team with Rowan.
Rowan won the Bisley Bullet for the highest individual score among NEGS, TAS and Sydney High. It’s the first time that NEGS has won this trophy. She also won the Burl Trophy for the best Shore/NEGS score at the All Schools Match.
You mentioned new rifles; they must be special?
The modern .308 target rifle is a very specialised machine, assembled from selected components. The NEGS rifles have Scottish barrels, New Zealand actions, Indian stocks, German buttplates and Australian triggers, sights and accessories. Once assembled, the essential fine tuning was done by gunsmith Fred Lawlor. They weigh about 9 kg, but a special jacket and sling help to hold them steady.
Each is worth about $3,800. The money to buy them was raised last year by NEGS Queensland Young Old Girls, so after fourteen years of using hand-me-down rifles, we are now very competitive.
It’s a pretty special sport, then?
It is special because it’s so inclusive. We can compete against any age, male or female, as a team or individually, and it’s something one can pick up later in life. There are also opportunities to travel nationally and internationally and represent at State and Australian level in Under 25 and Open teams.
So it fits very well with the NEGS ethos of ‘we can do anything’!
Thank you Clare.