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Having previously been a national finalist in the National Bank Young Farmer Competition might be seen as giving John McCaw of Methven an edge over his competitors, but that is not the way he is looking at this year’s event.

He has been in training for the event to be held later this week in Greymouth, but is also approaching the grand final in a different frame of mind to the way he handled it in 2004.

John heads to Greymouth tomorrow for the competition, which will be held over three days from Thursday, including a practical day, technical day and the televised evening section on Saturday.

The last grand final he attended, in Invercargill in 2004, was harrowing to say the least, John said. The pressure was far more than he expected.

“Nothing can prepare you for being in a final. They give you one and a half more times the work to do than is physically possible.”

The mistake he made in 2004 was that he made an attempt to learn everything about everything.

“I fretted about what I didn’t know and thought I had to win every section.”

Drawing on that experience John intends this time to enjoy the experience, hoping that will handle the pressure better.

“You only get two shots at the national. This is my last chance and I would like to enjoy it.”

It was not necessary to do well in every section, the key was a good average, he said. It was also helpful to remember that everyone else was struggling just as much, in their own way.

Preparation this time meant focusing on the bread and butter aspects of the competition that were sure to be included, cutting out about 70 per cent of what he had tried to learn last time. He kept good notes from two years ago and has built on the work he did then.  There was also an element of luck involved.

The buzzer round was one where the pressure got at him last time, to the point he was unable to answer questions he knew the answer to. This time he intends to take a more measured approach and only press the buzzer if he is sure of the answer, but is well aware that when the pressure comes on the answers could disappear again.

There were some sections such as the prepared speech and the Agmardt research project that it was possible to have some control over, he said.

Winning was not the sole benefit that could be gained from the competition, John said. Throughout the country more than 400 people had entered and each had gained something positive from taking part.

“Of all the things I could get from the competition I have probably already got 80 per cent.”

Benefits included skills gained, people met and opportunities created.

“I’ve gained an insight into different farming systems and met people I wouldn’t otherwise have met.”

Representing the Aorangi region in the Young Farmer competition was an honour, John said. Hundreds of people had helped him and he owed a lot to their input.

He realised the effort and the amount of work many of those people put in, as in the year between his two grand final attempts he had convened the district final in Methven and the Agrisports section of the regional final in Ashburton.

John is pragmatic about his approach to the final, especially the practical sections.

“I can shear a sheep but I will never be a shearer; I can put up a fence but I will never be a fencer. I’ve got to try to be a jack of all trades."

Aorangi representative in this weekend’s grand final of the National Bank Young Farmer Contest, John McCaw, gets in some last minute fencing practice.

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