Gunnedah recently hosted hundreds of professional sportspeople for the Sporting Clays Australia’s Nationals.
Among the 360 competitors in three days was the notable Steven Atkins, a member of Shoalhaven Clay Target Club.
He previously made the NSW team after six shoots throughout the year for the state team selections series.
Not only did he make the team but also won state champion for 2023.
His previously best score at the nationals was ninth place.
He took out first place in the A-grade shoot with a score of 156 and was in the top 30.
Steve has been shooting since childhood and was often a pastime for him and his father in Mudgee.
His love for clay target shooting started at the age of 12 and in a full circle moment, he had his two children Kimberly and Jack Atkins were alongside him at the nationals.
A common appeal among shooters was the social side of sporting clays.
“It is a really good social sport … everybody is down here camping,” Steve said.
Another shooter at the Australian Nations was Tamworth local and member of the Gunnedah Sporting Clays Cub Matt Duncan.
He has been with the club for about 12 years but first picked up clay shooting about 20 years ago.
He was introduced to clay shooting through a friend and moved through the different disciplines before settling into sporting clays.
When asked what he loved about the sport it was quickly answered with: “the people.”
“The atmosphere, catching up with friends that you do not see [all the time],” Matt said.
This was his fourth time competing in the nationals with his previous best finish equal 25th.
Matt left the A-grade competition in fifth place with a score of 152 and was in the top 50.
He worked hard alongside club members to ready the grounds for the nationals and setting the targets for five weekends prior to the big event.
He has only travelled a handful of times this year to shoot including to Cooma, Dubbo, Mudgee and Newcastle.
“You normally [go to] Coffs Harbour, Newcastle, Shoalhaven, Temora, Broken Hill but I have stayed pretty close to home this year,” he said.
Matt sees the sport as an exciting challenge that changes all the time.
“The best way to summarise it is it is like golf with a shotgun … It is never the same wherever you go,” he said.
“You can go to the same club every month and it will always be different. So that is where the challenge is.
“You’ll see all of the different sized targets and that adds a whole another element.”To order photos from this page click here