International raiders descend on Ballinger Belt for early look at 2019 world championship range
The international raiders are a chance of claiming the Ballinger Belt for the first time since 2010.
The 144-year-old shooting event has attracted a cracking 130-strong field, with a strong Australian contingent looming as likely challengers when the event gets underway on Wednesday at the Seddon Rifle Range in Trentham.
Championship manager Alan Whiteman said the international contingent, which also includes two South Africans and Brit, were here for an early look at the venue for the 2019 World Long-Range Championships.
"The last time we held that was 1995, so the Australians have sent a team over just to have a look around and see if they can beat the Kiwis.
"We've got two South Africans here and a Great Britain and they've come out to have a look, and will go back and report something like 'Trentham has got a bit of wind, we're going to need to sharpen our sights'."
The Australians were in dominant mood on Sunday when claiming seven of the top 10 places at the Wellington championships.
They also drew first blood in Monday's international match against New Zealand, winning by 35 points, before the New Zealand Veterans got one back with a three-point win over their Australian counterparts.
As for the Ballinger, Malcolm Dodson, from the Kaituna-Blenheim Rifle Club, will start his title defence during the first round of qualifying on Wednesday, with the final set down for 2pm on Saturday.
The last overseas winner was United Kingdom shooter Jonathan Cload in 2010. Before that it was an event flush with international winners, as shooters from Australia, the United States and the UK won four titles between 2003 and 2009.
This year's competition was too close for Whiteman to single out any leading contenders.
"It's pretty hard to narrow them down, it all depends on the wind and how they go. We had the Wellington champs on Sunday and the typical Wellington wind down the range was knocking everyone around.
"Until the final shot is fired it could be anybody's."