Sports correspondent & historian
A small item tucked away in one of the Sunday newspapers alerted Sideline Sid to an outstanding and historic achievement produced by a Te Puke sport shooter last week.
Mike Collings became the first shooter to win back to back Ballinger Belts in what is considered New Zealand's oldest sporting competition.
There is some division on how far back the Ballinger Belt stretches, with one source stating 1873 and another 1861.
Sideline Sid's investigation came to the conclusion that the Ballinger Belt did indeed have its origins in a rifle competition, which was first decided in 1861.
Governor Gore Brown presented a belt as the prize for the best shot in the country, which was to be determined at annual competition for militia and volunteers.
A total of 885 competitors firing in their own districts throughout the country on the same day, shot three rounds apiece at targets stationed at 100, 200 and 300 hundred yards.
The first championship belt, government medal and prize money of a not inconsiderable 140 pounds, was won by Lieutenant Brighton of Auckland.
Today's belt was presented by the Government in 1873, as a replacement for the first Government Champion belt, which under the rules of competition, had been won outright by Captain Wales of Otago the previous year.
Arthur Ballinger won it three times from 1893, which meant that he was entitled to retain it, instead donating the Champion Belt to National Rifle Association in 1907, who renamed it the Ballinger Belt.
Last Saturday, Te Puke's Mike Collings won his second successive Ballinger Belt, beating 2016 champion Malcolm Dodson by five points in tricky conditions at the Trentham Seddon range.
Four days of grueling competition saw competitors shoot from 300, 500, 800, 900 and 1000 yard range, with the final round from the 900 yard mark.
The top 12 advanced to the final, which is 15 shots from 900 yards, with scores then added onto the totals.
The Te Puke Rifle Club has a proud history in Ballinger Belt competition, with three Te Puke shooters being 'chaired' from the Trentham shooting range over the last four decades.
Collings third Ballinger Belt win will sit alongside his Commonwealth Games gold medal which he won at the 2010 New Delhi Games.
Shooting in tandem with John Snowden, the pair won the full-bore rifle open pairs.
He also finished fourth in the open single event.
Shooting runs in the Collings clan, with wife Dianne, his father Dennis and brother Ross all having their names engraved on the country’s premier shooting prize.
Shooting is one of the few sports that men and women compete on an even field.
Diane Collings has shot her way to Ballinger Belt success on three occasions, with her first in 1981 under her maiden name of Diane Blaymires.
During the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester Diane won a bronze medallion in the full-bore open singles.
Rounding out the Te Puke Ballinger Belt role of honour is Brian Carter, who won the National Rifle Association of New Zealand big prize in 2006, 2008 and 2012.