by Robert Tawton

ANRT TrophyWhat is a Retrieving Trial?
A Retrieving Trial is an event at which competitions for the working of registered Gundogs are conducted, both on land and in or through water, to determine their relative merits in the field under conditions that simulate, as closely as possible, those that may be found while hunting, but at the same time bringing the work of each dog within an ambit of equality where assessments can be fairly made. Retrieving Trials are designed to promote and evaluate the style of work that a gundog may encounter during a typical duck hunting trip.

Prior to 1939 Field Trials for both Pointers and Setters and Spaniels and Retrievers were conducted on a regular basis. During World War II access to sporting ammunition was so constrained that field shooting was nigh on impossible. This situation prompted Rail Bridgford and Hilda Lascelles to develop Water Tests in an effort to test the retrieving ability of their Labradors. These Water Tests consisted of two retrieves, one from water and the other across-water, both cast as single marked retrieves. As servicemen returned from the war and ammunition became available, the Victorian Gundog Club’s annual Water Test became very popular as it was held the weekend preceding the opening of the Duck Season, which for many years, was the 3rd Saturday in February.

The Victorian Retriever Club was founded in 1952 and the following year was renamed the Labrador Retriever Club (LRC) of Victoria. In 1954 the LRC sponsored the development of the initial set of Retrieving Trials Rules and two “trial” events were conducted, under the watchful eye of the Kennel Control Council (KCC) of Victoria. The KCC then approved the concept and the first “official” Novice Trial was held on June 1, 1957, judged by Mr Robert (Bob) Maver. Bob subsequently judged the first “Open” held June 13, 1957 and the first KCC Victorian State Retrieving Trial Championship held in 1958. During this period similar but independent development, was taking place in New South Wales (NSW) with much of the organisational credit due to (the late) Mr Len De Groen and his brother Harry.

One of the founding members of the Victorian Retriever Club was Charles Behrendt, owner of Ensign Dry Cleaners. Charles was a regular visitor to the USA and on one occasion brought back a set of AKC Field Trial Rules, which were subsequently blended into the existing rules developed by both Victoria and New South Wales. The upshot of this activity was that the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) ratified the Rules for the Conduct of Non-Slip Retrieving Trials for Gundogs in 1966.

All competitors in Australian Retrieving Trials are amateurs as there are no professional handlers, trainers or Judges.  Trophies, sashes, honour and glory are the only rewards. Most owner/handlers compete with only one dog. A few have two dogs and an even smaller group  compete with three or more dogs, especially at All Age and/or Championship level.

Clubs holding events must be affiliated with their State Controlling Body, which it in turn must be affiliated with the ANKC. Annually each State is permitted to conduct one State Retrieving Trial Championship and on a rotating basis the selected State hosts the ANKC National Retrieving Trial Championship.

In the early 1960’s it was noted that a similar form of competition had been developed in New Zealand and this precipitated the concept of holding an Inter-Dominion competition where suitably qualified dogs from Australia and New Zealand could be compared. The first Inter-Dominion Championship was held in NSW on 6 & 7 July 1962. Unfortunately New Zealand was not represented and only two dogs completed the Trial, both handled by Mr George Daniels from Victoria with 1st Pace being awarded to KCC RT Ch Pantherdell Cheetah and 2nd Place to KCC FT Ch RASKC FT Ch and KCC RT Ch Pantherdell Panther.

The 2nd Inter-Dominion was held in Victoria on 5 October 1963 and was judged by Mr Jack Pontin with a field of 31 entries.  1st Place was awarded to KCC RT Ch Prince Mel handled by Mr. C Baldwyn, 2nd Place was awarded to GSP, Heathman of Fruili (Imp UK) handled by Mr. J Thompson and 3rd Place was awarded to KCC RT Ch RASKC Inter-Dom. Ch Pantherdell Cheetah handled by George Daniels.

In 1965 the 3rd Inter-Dominion Championship was held at Wanneroo WA (near Perth). This event was won by Mr K G Martin (NSW) with RASKC RT Ch Debondale Golden Empress, in 2nd Place was Marie Ewen (WA) with RT Ch Breaksea Lady Susan and in 3rd Place was Sid Howell (NSW) with RASKC Dual Ch Casray Searcher.

ANKC National Retrieving Trial Championship
In 1969 the Australian National Kennel Club granted approval for the first National Non-Slip Retrieving Trial Championship, which was conducted in NSW.  In 1999 the term Non-Slip, which served to signify that the dogs were required to work “off lead” or “a slip”, was deleted from the Rules, thus the event is now known as the ANKC National Retrieving Trial Championship. The perpetual trophy that is awarded to the winner of this prestigious event was donated/presented by Ampol Petroleum Limited.

In 1970 the KCC hosted an event that was called the Australian Open Championship rather than the National Non-Slip Retrieving Trial Championship. The rationale for this change was directed towards increasing the number of participants by relaxing the entry qualification requirements and it certainly achieved that objective with around 50 dogs being entered.  On Day 1 the competitors were required to complete three Runs each judged by a separate Judge.  The top 35 competitors were then invited to compete on Day 2, where the Runs were co-judged by the three Judges from Day 1, viz. Jack Pontin, Jack Thompson and Clem Baldwyn. The final result was determined by aggregating the scores from Days 1 & 2. The winner was Mr Charlie Ball (Victoria) with KCC FT Ch, KCC RT Ch Tresrose Chasa (Lab) and in 2nd Place was Mr Linc. Sullivan (WA) with Triple Ch Bronzelu Sherry (GR) who gained her titles in Show, Obedience & Retrieving.

During the period 1969 through 2016 NSW will have hosted National Championship on 10 occasions, WA on 10 occasions, Victoria on 8 occasions, QLD on 7 occasions, SA on 7 occasions, the ACT on 3 occasions and Tas on 1 occasion.

Robert Tawton
December 2015.

Related link to "How The Australian National Non-Slip Retrieving Trial Championship Came To Be" R.A.S.K.C. Magazine February 1982 - Author unknown.
This page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc. (Affiliated with Dogs NSW)