JOANNA Balcombe may already have state and national junior judging championships to her name but at this year's Sydney Royal, she added a new achievement to her impressive resume.
The 21-year-old judged at the pinnacle of NSW agriculture for the first time in 2021, taking the lead on the Suffolk, Hampshire Down and handler competitions.
Despite being new to the Sydney Royal, the Canowindra native whose family runs Cranbrook Poll Dorset stud, handled the pressure with aplomb.
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"I've probably been judging since the age of eight or nine and I've been doing proper judging since 2017," Ms Balcombe told The Land.
"I got involved because my family has got its own Poll Dorset stud and since a young age I've been going to shows to show sheep, so I got involved that way.
"I picked up a lot of judging techniques from the years showing as well as through all of the junior judging competitions as well.
"On top of that, I've had a lot of mentors help me along they way and they are all in Sydney this year, which is really special."
A mainstay of the junior judging system, Ms Balcombe said it was crucial to nurturing her love of judging.
"Junior judging has honestly been massive for me," she said.
"People have told me it's nice to have some younger judges coming through and I agree that we need that youth coming through.
"It's good that once you go through all of the junior judging competitions you begin to get jobs judging at this level as well.
"I've met so many great people through junior judging and you find that every competition you go to you will know someone."
Beginning this year's Sydney Royal with the handlers competition, Ms Balcombe said she felt it was important to give back to the next generation of competitors.
"You just make connections with people and I have done a lot of overjudging through it now and it's a really positive experience," she said.
"It makes me feel really proud to be able to come and help the school-aged kids who are doing it at the moment because it is a good way of giving back to those who helped me when I was their age."
Currently in her third year of an agricultural science degree at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Ms Balcombe said she was hopeful of forging a career in the livestock sector.
"I wouldn't say I have a goal in mind as such, I would just like to be able to go to some of the other major shows across the country and the world to judge," she said.
"Over the past few years I've done quite a few smaller shows but this is the biggest show I've done so far, but if I was invited to go to some of the other big shows that would be amazing.
"I've always wanted to end up in the livestock field somewhere, whether its running my own stud on the side or doing something else.
"It's always good having your stud there because you feel proud when you get to bring your sheep here, show them off and everyone commends you on them.
"I'd love to keep that going somehow."
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