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NZ Rural Games: Woodchopping rookie needs parental consent to compete at nationals

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Hokitika 16-year-old Jack Matthews is competing in the Stihl Timbersports National Championships at the NZ Rural Games.

One of New Zealand woodchopping’s most promising talents is so young he needs parental consent to use a chainsaw at this week’s national championships.

Hokitika’s Jack Matthews,16, is the youngest axeman to qualify for the under-25s rookie division at the Stihl Timbersports National Championships.

As he’s almost 10 years younger than some of his competitors, this presented an interesting health and safety consideration for organisers.

Being under 18 meant parental permission had to be sought so Matthews could use a chainsaw in one of the five disciplines he’ll be competing in when he takes the stage as part of the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North on Friday.

Matthews said he could see the irony in the situation.

“It’s quite hardcase really; especially because I’ve been using a chainsaw on our family lifestyle block in the West Coast since I was 13.

“Plus, cutting firewood with an axe has been my after-school job since as long as I can remember.

“I guess I can see why it had to happen, but I don’t think a signature from Dad’s gonna make any difference to how I go.”

Matthews has the track record to back up his confidence.

He’s won his fair share of age-group “chops” and made the NZ under-21 team that beat the Aussies 3-nil in a series in Adelaide last year.

Jack Matthews (left) and his older brother, Scott, are well known for their woodchopping feats in home town Hokitika.
Jack Matthews (left) and his older brother, Scott, are well known for their woodchopping feats in home town Hokitika.

He was the youngest in that competition too, and no chainsaws were needed.

Thankfully for organisers, this won’t be the first time Matthews used a chainsaw in competition.

However, it is not a regular discipline that his age group competes in — hence the irregular paperwork required.

Jack is not the only Matthews on the scene either.

His brother, Scott,18, has also qualified for his first Stihl Timbersports Nationals this week and will compete alongside his younger sibling in the rookies.

Jack Matthews in action.
Jack Matthews in action.

The Matthews boys are well known for their woodchopping feats in their home town Hokitika — Scott won the South Island Under 21 Championship in 2022, when he was only 17.

It’s not even three years since the boys got into the sport, which came about after they helped tidy up at a local woodchopping event.

They never looked back.

Jack, a Year 12 Westland High School 1st XV member, was pretty confident his joy of rugby wouldn’t overtake his passion for woodchopping.

“I’ve got pretty big goals to keep going as far as I can as an axeman.

“I really love the sport.”

The whole family (mum, dad and sister) are coming to Palmerston North for the weekend to cheer on the boys.

That could be a good thing for Matthews because, if he goes alright, he might just need his dad again to get him into a local pub for a celebratory beer.

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