Tom Close leads the way

Tom and his Poll Dorset ewe ready to take the big stage at Bendigo


Sheep
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Gordon and Tom Close, Closeup, Finley, with the ewe Tom has led in the judging ring.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Gordon and Tom Close, Closeup, Finley, with the ewe Tom has led in the judging ring.

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Poll Dorset community embrace Finley's Tom Close.

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Take a look in the Poll Dorest ring at any sheep show from Cowra to Bendigo and you will find Finley's Tom Close.

Tom, who was born with down syndrome, has attended shows with his family's Poll Dorset and Suffolk stud, Closeup, since he was about 12.

Now at 27, he's started to enter the ring himself and is proving to be quiet achiever.

His dad, Gordon Close, said Tom first put his hand up to lead one of their Poll Dorset ewes at the Deniliquin show.

"He just came up to me and said 'I'll lead her' and I went 'oh alright' and then he ended up winning champion ewe with her," Mr Close said.

"He did a really good job. Ever since then he's decided he can lead them now. We run Suffolks as well and he knows they're his sister, Charlotte's sheep and I think he's just realised that the Poll Dorsets can be his sheep."

Tom is now preparing for sheep exhibitors' biggest stage, the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo next week.

"I asked him the other day if he wanted to lead at Bendigo and he didn't hesitate," Mr Close said.

Mr Close said nerves were unlikely to be a problem for Tom no matter how big the competition.

"Tom's always had plenty of confidence," he said.

"He goes straight to the top of the line in the ring (where the best sheep are positioned by the judge), not much gets past him."

Tom's mum, Nicole, agreed he had picked up a lot from hours spent watching the judging.

"He watches other people leading, keeps an eye on them and follows what they do," Mrs Close said.

Tom leading his Charolais steer at the Royal Melbourne Show in 2008.

Tom leading his Charolais steer at the Royal Melbourne Show in 2008.

She said Tom had also learnt to handle sheep and cattle as part of the show team at Finley High School, leading a Charolais steer at the Royal Melbourne Show in 2008.

But Poll Dorsets are now his focus and Mrs Close said the Poll Dorset community had well and truely embraced Tom.

"He knows everyone when we go to the shows and they include him in everything," Mrs Close said.

Tom often given the role of sashing winners, one he takes very seriously.

She said Tom loved attending shows for the family teamwork and chance to catch up with other breeders.

"Going to a show is like our family holiday," Mrs Close said.

"I just think Tom really likes being part of the family's activities.

"He loves meeting with all the fellas and catching up with everybody."

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