A rising star among auctioneering circles is cutting his career short to dedicate the next phase of his life to family cattle farming.
Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association National Young Auctioneers Competition winner Will Claridge, 25, will leave CL Squires at Inverell on Friday following a successful foray into the agency game and a meteoric rise as a bid-taker, resulting in a state win in 2021 followed by the national title this Easter at Sydney Royal show.
His role in competition is not yet finished, and he will compete at next year's Calgary Stampede for the world title.
Mr Claridge began his career as a teenager, preferring to get his education through school-based apprenticeship program, learning from real people and not just through books.
"My year 10 English teacher who had a stock agent for a mate suggested the program to me," he said. "From the first day I was hooked."
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Mr Claridge recalled that moment, inspecting cows at Guyra and picking up on the language of marketing.
"And the environment, it all appealed to me," he said.
He first worked full time with Ray White at Armidale, learning from Andrew Starr and Sam Sewell while thriving on a junior wage of $28,000 a year.
"It was all I needed. I was boarding with uni students and we were living off of goon bags and maccas. I was learning my trade and enjoying it."
His first deal involved half a dozen Dorper sheep with the commission barely enough to cover fuel costs going out to check and mouth them.
"It gave me a start," he said. "I will never forget the feeling of that first transaction; the feeling of appreciation for service and the excitement of being able to offer stock on someone's behalf."
Acquaintances at the time recall the ambitious Mr Claridge as being always on top of business, doing deals on the phone with Queensland graziers the morning after a house party while the rest of the roommates were waking up to nurse sore heads.
Having grown up on a cropping property at Goondiwindi the young auctioneer lacked a bit of livestock education. His parents had moved to the Bundarra district but until they could afford cattle they agisted stock, so there wasn't much hands-on action until it came time to unload cattle prior to a sale.
Mr Claridge recalls an incident when a well-known Angus producer delivered his beloved 14 year old bull Trevor to the hungry commission buyers at the Armidale saleyards after an excellent career in the service industry. It was young Will's job to unload the beast and the first snort sent him running. In his panic he failed to shut the man gate and an angry Trevor climbed half way up the auctioneer's catwalk before he got stuck. The client stepped out of his truck and gently reversed old mate down the walkway with a flap of the hat but the lesson was imprinted forever.
"The agent Victor Moar said to me: "Now son that wasn't real smart so remember and learn and grow."
And so he did - learning the patter and growing to love the adrenaline rush during selling time.
After two years with Ray White Mr Claridge moved to Inverell with CL Squires, learning how to muster a bidding war from the likes of Robbie Bloch and Tom Oakes, along with those from competing agencies, like Patrick Purtle at Manilla, James Tierney in the Riverina and Peter Dowling at Cloncurry, Qld.
"Leaving Ray White was one of the hardest things I've done as they gave me a great start and when I started in the Inverell district I was green," he said. "I had to build my own business. It was a blank canvas; I had to start from the beginning during the worst drought."
With so few on his books Mr Claridge spent more time with them, and plenty more on the phone, introducing himself to agents two states away to find out what they were chasing and then offering that opportunity back to his home district.
"I spent every minute building my base," he said. "It was an addiction, a hustle to close every deal with a client. They were the wins. Every rejection just drove me harder."
Now a new horizon has emerged, and he is keen to immerse himself in the family's first cross breeding operation with full-blood Wagyu over black Angus at Glenwarrah and Wallangrah, south and north from Inverell. Progeny are marketed as live export.
"I like the fact that we retain the Angus cow herd as we know that breed is consistent and safe in today's market, yet we can utilise high returns by bringing in the Wagyu bull. The climate, good rainfall and soil type at our properties - a mixture of black basalt and lighter granite - works well for the program.
"It has been an aspiration of mine to do this. I didn't want to wait until mid life to think that I'd missed the chance to do this. Now I get to start again and try to see the other side of the fence."
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