WHEN a fleet-footed football player gives up the game to exhibit Merino sheep then he is serious.
Loxley studmaster Courtney Sutherland trains and plays all winter but when the show season starts football comes second.
"The year I left school was the year that wool boomed and after all this time if you didn't love it, you wouldn't still be in it," he says.
Add to that the razzamatazz of showing Merinos, the fellowship of breeders and the success he has experienced in the past year as he has traveled around the show circuit and you see a man who's absolutely hooked on showing.
He farms an 810 hectare property at Dumbleyung running 850 stud ewes among the total of 4000 sheep - cropping is something he'd prefer to see the neighbours doing.
Last year the traveling Loxley team attended nine shows starting at Wagin in March and then Williams, Katanning (twice), Kojonup, Carnamah, Corrigin, Narrogin and Perth.
The trailer-load of rams and ewes won 21 championships - including the reserve grand champion Merino ewe, champion strong wool ewe and reserve champion strong wool Merino ram at Woolorama. Loxley won the most points in the small breeders section at Wagin in 2000.
The haul of broad ribbons has elevated Loxley to the open classes this year and Courtney has plans to tour just as many shows in 2001.
The tradition of showing was inherited from his father Peter who was among the early Woolorama exhibitors. It was a tradition that lapsed for a number of years and was revived with the generational change-over six years ago.
Courtney believes the show ring is a good gauge to see where he stands compared with the bigger studs.
"It gives you an idea if you are heading in the right direction."
Courtney also believes he gets a good indication of where the up and coming sheep are during the winter and spring when he is doing his blade shearing run.
When he is away it is left to Lea, his step-mother, to look after the shedded sheep and she travels with him to many of the shows.
Loxley has been known for its purity of Collinsville breeding retaining many of the old original families but that is one tradition that is under review.
Courtney is a great believer that lower micron wool will come naturally by selecting for softer handling, well nourished wool and for this reason he is not paying undue attention to lower micron in his breeding philosophy.
Even though he is up against stiffer competition he is looking forward to Woolorama 2001 as a chance to "talk sheep".