IT'S been a disrupted preparation period for Tom McGregor, who grew up in Cootamundra, as he prepares for this year's ALPA Young Auctioneers competition.
Tom, who works for Edlers at Goulburn, is one of 10 NSW finalists in this year's competition.
After gaining selection to compete following the NSW Auctioneers School in Sydney last December, Tom's time to shine was delayed by the cancellation of the Sydney Royal Show where the competition would normally be held.
No doubt the extra few months of practice will stand Tom and his fellow finalists in good stead for the big day in Dubbo next month.
But just who are this year's finalists and how have their preparations gone for the competition?
(1) Ned Balharrie, 21, Nutrien Livestock Wagga Wagga
BEING a livestock agent is in Ned's blood: both his father and grandfather made it their chosen career path.
"I'm following in their footsteps," he said. With three years as an agent under his belt, Ned said the time was right to take up the challenge of the Young Auctioneers Competition.
"While I enjoy auctioneering, my real passion is providing the best service I can to my clients each day," he said.
Ned said one of the most important lessons he has learnt is that taking that bit of extra time with each client can make all the difference to the sale outcome.
"It's really important to me to make sure I understand what the client's situation is before we jump in with the marketing," he said.
"That way I can present them with some of the best options to ensure they get a result that works for them.
"You can't 'unsell' livestock, so you want to be sure the marketing is right from the start."
Ned said another part of the job he enjoys is drafting and helping clients prepare their stock for sale day.
"I enjoy working with livestock, whether that's on-farm or in the saleyards," he said.
Just like many of the finalists in this year's NSW competition, Ned has been trying to get in as much practice as he can during the weekly prime cattle and sheep sales.
"Wagga is my local saleyards at the moment, so I'm taking the opportunity to sell whenever I can," he said.
In his spare time, Ned enjoys playing Aussie rules, water skiing and spending time with his family and friends.
(2) William Claridge, 22, CL Squires and Company, Inverell
A FIRST-TIMER in the NSW competition, William has been a full-time auctioneer for four years.
"When I was at school, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but a mentor suggested I give stock agency a go," he said. "It started with just a few trial days."
He said the most enjoyable part of the job was the variety - so many options when buying and selling livestock which could be presented to a client to suit their situation.
"Your reputation is everything in this game, so being able to forward plan for clients and offer them the right advice is critical," he said.
He said being an agent in the Inverell district provided a wide variety of clients - from people on the plains involved with mixed cropping and finishing livestock businesses to those in the hills who concentrate on breeding with a strong emphasis on things such as genetics.
(3) Tom McGregor, 24, Elders Goulburn
TOM has been a territory sales manager for about four-and-a-half years and said the best part of his job was working with livestock and good people.
He said the lifestyle of an agent suited him and since the livestock market had turned in the past month, it was fantastic to see his clients being rewarded for their hard work during the drought.
"They've had a tough time, so being able to help clients get the best deal for their stock has been a highlight of the job recently," he said.
Tom grew up on a farm near Cootamundra which produced wool and prime lambs, so he's always keen to get home in his free time.
He said it was the interaction with agents at the saleyards as a child that drew him to the profession.
"One of the other agents offered some advice which I try to follow: know what you are selling, know who you are selling it to and know what it's worth," he said.
Tom enjoys playing cricket and rugby union.
(4) Jake McKenzie, 22, Duncombe and Company, Crookwell
WITH just two years working as a stock and station agent, Jake is full of enthusiasm for auctioneering and establishing himself as a trusted member of the team at an independent agency.
This will be his first year as a competitor in the NSW final and he's been trying to get as much practice in as he can selling at his closest saleyards near Yass.
Jake said his father's involvement with working at the saleyards was what drew him to a career as an agent.
"I'd always like hanging around the sales when I was younger, so becoming an agent seemed like a good idea," he said.
He enjoys auctioneering and getting to meet a diverse range of people in the day-to-day operations of the job.
In five years, Jake said he would like to have a NSW Young Auctioneers Competition title under his belt, while at the same time have an established reputation as a highly regarded agent in the district.
(5) Ben McMahon, 24, Lehman Stock and Property, Inverell
BEN is no stranger to the Young Auctioneers Competition having already stepped up two times before.
He's also got plenty of experience having been an agent for the past five year and having a father as a cattle buyer, he's been around saleyards and livestock marketing all his life.
Ben said he enjoyed building better relationships with existing clients and that helping those people get a good result and make money was inspiring.
At the same time, he values reliability and not cutting corners with any job.
Ben said in the next five years he hopes to still be in Inverell working in the same area of the business with a strong client base.
"I grew up at Killarney near Warwick in Queensland, but I like Inverell and it's a good spot to be," he said.
When not at work, Ben's working dogs and horses take up much of his time. He also enjoys a game of polocrosse.
(6) Nick Rogers, 21, Davidson Cameron and Company, Guyra
NO DAY is ever the same in the life of an agent and auctioneer and that's one of the things that Nick finds most interesting about his job.
"I simply love the variety and being able to talk to interesting people," he said.
Nick enjoys a good chat, so using this skill to understand his clients to get the best results for them is another rewarding part of the job.
"I've been an agent for four years now, but back in my school days I wasn't sure what I would end up doing," he said.
"I decided to do some work experience with a local agent and that led to some casual work in Year 12. Since then I've never looked back."
As well as selling at Guyra saleyards, Nick has been getting a bit of selling practice where he can at Armidale and Tamworth sales.
This year is his first in the competition, so he's looking forward to learning from the experience and doing the best he can with the opportunity he's been given.
(7) Jake Smith, 24, Elders Gundagai
IT WAS an interest in buying and selling cattle fostered by his father's passion for trading livestock that helped Jake take up a career as a stock and station agent.
Jake always knew he wanted to work in some part of the agricultural industry, having grown up on a farm his father managed between Holbrook and Jingellic.
He's worked for Elders for six years as a territory sales manager and has been in the industry for about seven years. Having been lucky enough to work in different communities with his Elders job, Jake now enjoys being based in Gundagai.
"About 60 to 70 per cent of this job is being able to talk to people and while knowing about livestock is important, it's essential you can communicate with people to make a difference to their business," he said.
"That's one of the things that I really like about my job, and it's a privilege to be able to work with your clients through both the highs and lows of life on the land."
(8) Sam Smith, 22, Kevin Miller Whitty Lennon and Company, Forbes
SAM has wanted to be a stock and station agent for as long as he can remember and it's clear from the steady and effective way he goes about his business working with clients that he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"I get plenty of satisfaction from providing a service to clients and creating a bond with them," he said.
He said being a good agent was more than just keeping clients happy, it's also about taking the time to understand their values and what they want to achieve longer term with their business and helping them do that.
This will be Sam's third time in the competition and he has been trying to get in as much practice as he can by selling at the saleyards at Forbes and Carcoar.
Sam enjoys fishing, playing rugby union and spending time with family and friends. In fact, spending time with family and friends is one of the things that keeps Sam in the Forbes district.
(9) Harry Water, 21, Elders Gundagai
WITH less than a year of full-time work as an agent under his belt, plus completing an Elders traineeship, this will be Harry's first year in the competition.
However, he said growing up around the saleyards and having a father who's a stock and station agent meant he had a pretty good idea of what being an auctioneer was all about.
"One of the things I'm really enjoying about the job is seeing lots of different places," he said.
"You get to meet so many different sorts of people in this job, too. And it goes without saying that working with livestock is another part of the job that I like."
Harry said one of the most important things he has learnt is the importance of being able to communicate effectively with clients and having open and honest conversations.
"You need to be able to tell it as it is and if there's a problem, be able to fix it quickly before it becomes a big issue," he said.
(10) Shannon Wicks, 25, Nutrien Livestock Wagga Wagga
SHANNON has worked in livestock sales for about five years and this will be his second year as a finalist in the competition.
He said one of the things that drew him to being an agent was the variety of things to do each day.
"Being able to work with people every day and all the variables that brings with it is something I really like about my job," he said.
Shannon said one of the things he had worked on since becoming an agent was getting to know his clients and having a thorough understanding of their product.
"If you don't know what you're talking about when you go to market a client's product, you are not adding to their enterprise," he said.
"It's so important to me that my clients know that when I work with them I want to understand their operation to ensure we get the best result." He enjoys watching rugby union, playing golf, fishing and working with his working dogs.